Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rock-O-ber: From rocking the art van to a hurricane

POP Inc.'s art exhibit at the Fort Fisher Aquarium, NC

What a rocking October for Plastic Ocean Project, Inc.  As of October 1st our traveling art exhibit arrived in California making it's 26th and final destination as part of the funding from Project Aware.  We had one year to complete the cross country exhibit and on December 1st, it will be on display at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, CA. Project Aware does so much good, not only by helping protect marine life like sharks, but also fund diving campaigns and helps small non-profits like ours accomplish big goals. But we would have not been eligible for those funds if it weren't for our supporters voting for us to win the grant money to get our show on the road.  Through this initiative we have shed light on the proliferation of plastic marine debris to 1000s more people of all ages. Now to find funding to help bring it back across the US.

Pyramid Lake, NV
The exposure the exhibit has received has led to so many requests that we put together a smaller version that is currently at the Fort Fisher Aquarium, NC and will be on display until November 30 and will then move to UNC Chapel Hill.  But this is only our outreach front. Last month not only did we collect trash in the N. Pacific with Ocean Defenders Alliance, but we also sampled an endorheic lake meaning there is no outlet, water only leaves via evaporation.  Why would this be significant to study?  Because if you think about it, it is a microcosm of an ocean.  We can learn a lot about runoff, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and how plastic marine debris persists in this environment.  More on the findings later.

Mid-October, we spent two weeks sampling off the shores of Bermuda.  What made this years sampling even more unique was the fact that we had the opportunity to sample after a tropical storm AND a category 2 hurricane.  We now have five years of open-ocean samples collect in the N. Atlantic gyre with significant evidence from this last outing that put exclamation points on top of the results established over the past four years.  Just a couple examples.

1. Just like gyre circulation systems are a transport for plastic marine debris on a grand scale, surface eddies serve as mini gyre systems.
Visible convergence zone where plastic and marine life meet

2. Convergence zones where different temperatures of waters meet are aggregates for marine life as well as free floating plastics making plastic debris more readily available for ingestion and entanglement.  Here is a video where you can see a convergence zone notice the teal blue waters of Bermuda butting up against the deep colder waters of the open-ocean.  We could actually see with your own eyes all the trash along this edge. So if Boyan Slat wanted to find a sweet spot for his ocean cleaning device, he might want to start in regions like this - not too far from land.

Sampling in 4' seas in the N. Atlantic gyre
3.  As the sea state goes up, meaning as the wind speed and  wave height increase, the number of plastic pieces goes down, yet, we find the size of the pieces increase.There are other points to be made, but we will save that for our potential publication coming out early 2015.

But Plastic Ocean Project, Inc goes beyond research and outreach, we are also about collaboration.  We asked Beautiful Nation Project if they would like to join us on our fall N. Atlantic research cruise with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Maureen Conte, PhD.  They accepted and for those of you with middle school children and/or educators, visit their website.  They are using ships of opportunity as a means of an educational platform to bring ocean science and the students around the world into your classroom.

N. Atlantic surface sample 
Also, we continue to support the efforts of 5 Gyres Institute who are promoting the banning of micro beads in consumer products in particular Plastic Tides who is currently paddle boarding up the Erie Canal to the NY State Capital from Ithaca IN WINTER CONDITIONS, to promote awareness to the ubiquitous quantities of plastic beads intentionally entering our water via companies that put them in their products.  Go Christian and Gordon!