Seeking the Science of the Garbage Patch

The R/V New Horizon

The R/V New Horizon

It’s finally time to announce why I’ve been neglecting the poor Oyster’s Garter all summer. This Sunday, August 2nd, the first Scripps expedition to study plastic accumulation in the North Pacific Gyre will depart San Diego. A collaboration between Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the nonprofit Project Kaisei, SEAPLEX (Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition) aims to quantify exactly how much plastic is a lot, and what effects the debris might have on the base of the food web.

And I’m SEAPLEX chief scientist. Eeek.

But I couldn’t possibly lead a blog-less Twitter-less cruise. And I especially couldn’t work on this issue without giving people a chance to see the problem (virtually) first-hand. So you’ll be able to follow along with SEAPLEX through our blog and our Twitter feed. You can also sign up to receive email updates by joining the SEAPLEX Google Group.

Though our internet access at sea will be limited, we will be able to respond to your questions and comments. We are incredibly excited to go on this cruise and even more excited to share our observations with you. So get your RSS feeds ready – it’s going to be an interesting three weeks.

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11 Responses to Seeking the Science of the Garbage Patch

  1. Karen Dalton says:

    Congratulations on being chief scientist of the expedition! I heard part of your interview on the Science Friday radio broadcast (on KQED) and the rest of the interview on the Science Friday podcast! -Karen

  2. Dan says:

    I have always been curious as to whether or not there would be any money (or enough money to cover the costs) in collecting plastic from the North Pacific Gyre for the purposes of recycling…. I understand a lot of the pieces of plastic are small. My day dream is that there would be, and that the money would cover the costs of collecting non-recyclable material.

    Thoughts?

  3. This is being investigated by our collaborators, Project Kaisei.

  4. Chris says:

    Good to hear, I have been following this story on the island of Plastic

  5. briantlinton says:

    Miriam, For years I’ve been worried about the amount of plastic and trash accumulating in our oceans and when I heard about the garbage patch I was sad, yet not too surprised. I own a ocean-friendly fashion company, and as we go into 2010, we are redirecting our mission of ocean conservation to include removing a certain poundage of trash from our oceans and beaches for certain products sold. We are looking to leverage our for-profit company to clean up the oceans…it is in early stages of implementation. I do have one question, how difficult is it to remove plastic from the gyre? I suppose it is cost prohibitive, but maybe there is a way.

  6. Anna Cummins says:

    Miriam,
    Not sure if you’re still checking this – great to see that your team along with Kaisei had such a successful research trip. To be clear though, your assertion above that this was the first scientific expedition isn’t accurate. The Algalita Marine Research Foundation has been conducting scientific research on plastic accumulation in the NPG since 1999. I believe the team even collected some samples for you on their recent gyre voyage, so perhaps this was just an oversight?
    We are now expanding to the North and South Altantic gyres, with our first expedition this coming January. If you’re interested in any samples or other data collection here, feel free to get in touch. We”ll be launching 5gyres.org in a few weeks, should be a great opportunity to bring this issue to a wider audience. Which is, of course, all of our goals.
    Congrats, and kudos for your efforts,
    Anna

  7. Hi Anna,

    Good to hear from you. My apologies for my poor choice of words – I am of course aware of AMRF’s work and have adjusted the text above. Best wishes on your new project!

  8. This patch has been under study since the late 1970’s. We’re just hearing about it now. Need to stop using plastics and start using corn polymers. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a lot better than what we are using now.

  9. Great to hear from you that at last some measures are taking to dispatch the plastic wastes accumulated in the oceans.
    The plastic waste accumulated causes harm to aquatic species and also to sea transportation.
    Thank you.
    Regards,
    Mike

  10. Anonymous says:

    Wow great posts. I hope to become a marine biologist like you someday, you’re a great role model. I’m in my senior year majoring in biology. I just started my own biology blog but I’ve been having some trouble on how to gain followers and supporters, do you have any tips. could you check it out please : conchettaville.blogspot.com I hope you like it! I want to create environmental awareness . thank you best wishes.

    Laura

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