Monday, June 9, 2014

Jack Johnson and Sustaining Hope

When we were asked to be a All At Once partner at the Jack Johnson concert we were so excited, we went through a million ideas of how we could reach people.  We didn’t want to create more waste by giving out brochures and handouts and the All At Once camp wasn’t a fan of that either. It would be against what we both try to promote, reduce waste. So we had to get very creative, and our POP, Inc. team nailed it.  With the help of the UNCW Sailing Club, thank you Jeff Pyle, we decided to retrofit a retired sail to hang in our booth for concertgoers to write their pledge to reduce waste. Next we wanted to make something concertgoers could take a picture of and have fun with. Then came the idea of Ollie the Octopus, a cardboard cutout of an Octopus entangled with single-use items with a head size cutout for photo opts. To promote POP, Inc. and All At Once, we ordered some plastic-free body stamps with our logo and web address.  This way people could take home our logo and website hands-free.

“I am the solution to plastic pollution,” crowned Ollie the Octopus’s head, and he was a hit. Humorously initiating conversation, people would step right up to get a photo opt with him, enticing others to come right over too.  Once under our tent we showed them a sample we collected from the North Pacific Garbage Patch and plastics collected that were half eaten by marine life.  This allowed us the opportunity to share the work we are doing with students, open-ocean research, collaboration we share with other non-profits, and our efforts to try to minimize our negative impact from trash on the environment.  They were engaged and loved taking pictures with Ollie, sharing it on their social media and hopefully starting a conversation of their own with their friends and family. It was so awesome seeing how many people really seemed to ‘get it’ by writing great pledges on the sail. Everyone got into the act including our own photo opt with Jack Johnson in front of our sail.
Many of the pledges were from the little ones with wonderfully intuitive things to say.  One little guy pledged, “I will reyos and resicle all day and evry day of my life.”  Families pledged they would recycle together, stop using straws and bring their own bags.  Many left our tent marked by awareness and a temporary POP, Inc. tattoo. It was such an uplifting experience, we left full of energy and overjoyed with the feeling that we changed how people looked at single-use plastic.
The last few months had been wearing on us and we felt as though we weren’t connecting with people or making a difference.  This experience rejuvenated our hope for a future less condemned by plastic waste.  To say we are grateful to Jack Johnson and the All At Once campaign would be an understatement, we gained so much more than the monetary value.  We left that concert renewed and ready to charge forward educating, researching and ultimately finding a way to help clean up the ocean. 
Tricia Monteleone 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Green Gem of a Community Inspires POP, Inc. to Award with Two Jack Johnson Tickets

Plastic Ocean Project, Inc. frequently gives presentations on the research we do, sharing images and videos from the different regions of the world we have sampled.  Thanks to Lisa Rider, we again had the opportunity to present in Onslow County, NC at the cleverly designed Sneads Ferry Library and Environmental Education Center - a beautiful natural space that showcases their community environmentalism.  Lisa shared some stats on their community involvement and here are just a few of what a community can do:
1. Onslow County now ranks sixth in common household recyclables per capita and 11th in total public recycling per capita recovery, up from 32d a year ago and 82nd the year before.
2. Dixon Elementary is ranked the top recycling school in the State. 
3. Queens Creek Elementary started a Styrofoam food tray recycling program this year.
4. Their local Environmental Awareness Event and their Earth and Surf Fest received 3 environmental awards this year including the NC Show Fest Green Award and the NC Green Travel Program’s highest honor of the 3 Dogwood Awards. 
5. They started capturing landfill gas and using it as a renewable energy source which means revenue for the County with absolutely no expense to the County. Furthermore, they are installing solar panels to the old closed landfill to provide even more renewable energy and revenue, again at no cost.

The Robert L. Franck Award ceremony was to honor those striving for a cleaner, greener community, with this year's recipient of the green legend "Robert L. Franck" award going to Jim Wheeler.  Beyond being a retired military, he continues to serve this country in habitat protection by cleaning up manmade materials from the environment. "He picked up his 3,000th bag of trash last month, which he knows well because he does an awesome job tracking data. Tracking trash might seem unusual, but for those of us that use the data to target trends it is very useful information." Shared Lisa Rider, Assistant Director of Keep Onslow Beautiful.  

Beyond the pale, Onslow County Keep America Beautiful enlisted 60 Marines from Camp Lejeune that participated in a marsh area cleanup. The area was a marshy dredge-spoil area along the inter coastal waterway in North Topsail Beach that includes the boat ramp area under the NTB bridge. This area has a lot of shoreline fishing related trash including bottles, cans, baby diapers, fishing line, etc. as well as a lot of materials related to things that washed up from storms and high tides. They picked up 1350 lbs of materials which consisted of over 90% recyclable materials of which they recycled it all.  This inspired POP, Inc. to want to clean up in a similar area in our community. 

Andrea Buddy helps clean up Cape Fear River with dad.
Using funding from the Jack Johnson Foundation, POP, Inc. is calling on our local New Hanover County eco-troops to come out and lend a hand for a cleanup at Carolina Beach State Park.  We will meet at the fishing dock at 3pm Saturday, May 17th.  We will also be raffling off tickets to the Jack Johnson concert held at Koka Booth, Cary NC May 21st.  Come out and help cleanup the environment and you just might cleanup two tickets to the Jack Johnson concert!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Plane to see . . . .

Satellite image of debris in the open-ocean
For over three weeks the search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 has been sobering not only for the plane and people that we haven't found, but also for what has been found - tons of manmade debris covering the ocean surface.  It is plain to see why there is an abundance of debris since the oceans are down hill from everywhere, rivers transport the debris in them out to sea then combines with debris either lost or discarded at sea, so all it CAN do is accumulate.   It is estimated that every year 6.4 million tonnes of manmade debris joins that which has been collecting over the past 50 years according to research done by the US Academy of Sciences.

 "According to other calculations, some 8 million items of marine litter have been estimated to enter oceans and seas every day, about 5 million of which are thrown overboard or lost from ships. Furthermore, it has been estimated that over 13,000 pieces of plastic litter are floating on every square kilometre of ocean surface." (UNEP-
Plastic ends up in our oceans from runoff.
To test this study we challenge you to take a few minutes out of your busy schedule and go find a body of water, a river, a retention pond, stream, roadside gutter, and look to see if you find any plastic debris.  Once you see it, you will always see it near and in water because wind and rain drive debris to pools of water. Like the image game Magic Eye, at first you don't really see it, but once you really look for it, you will always see it.  And seeing it hopefully leads to the purchase of a grabber so you can get some fresh air and exercise by going out and picking it up.  It is just one way to help preventing the 8 million items that end          up in the ocean daily.

Erin Diskin sampling for plastic bottle leachates. 
There are so many ways we can look at plastics. Erin Diskin is a student at UNCWilmington and she is looking for the leachates in a BPA-free bottle.  She wants to understand if the company has really come up with a way to avoid chemicals that mimic estrogen or if what the company is substituting BPA with is more of the same.  In the process, she is learning how to freeze-dry her sample, then using solvents and evaporation,  will hopefully sequester any of the agents used so she can then learn how to GC Mass Spectroscopy the sample to see what chemistry was used to make the bottle.  This is hands on learning skill working with one of our finest professors, Dr. Pam Seaton. To be continued . .

M. Mangiacapre, S. Kennedy,
and S. Lyons learning FT-IR.
Typing plastic fragments on FT-IR
These students are learning how to use the Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) It measures ultra violet light absorbed at each wavelength.  What they can learn from this is what types of plastic fragments are we finding in the open-ocean.  Furthermore, they hope to take it one step further to understand if chemicals leaching from plastics are triggering selective feeding on plastics by micro-zooplankton. Misty Mangiacapre learned how to use the instrument as an undergraduate.  Her research led to her discovery that plastics adsorb manmade pollutants and that those pollutants are then transferred to gastrointestinal sea turtle juices.
UNCW lab doing it right - recycle foil.

While taking pictures of our students working in the lab, I stumbled upon this  pleasant surprise.  Recycling all that we can reduces our over use of resources while creating a closed loop system.

And of course we can all help stop the flow of plastic marine debris if we reduce our use of single use plastics.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Critical Announcement - NC NOAA Marine Lab IS on the chopping block

A good way to argue there is no harm being done to the oceans is by shutting down the science that protects them as well as helps us appreciate them.  Is that why North Carolina's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) is scheduled to be shut down?

The House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies subcommittee will be accepting comments for the record. Go this website

Deadline for submission of your comments is 31 March 2014.
call and/or email, to stop this nonsense.  Of course you only have today to do it conveniently.  Please voice your objection to shutting down the science that we ALL depend upon including our Sea Turtles!!!.



As we all recognize, the lab and its staff are so critical to the sea turtle program in North Carolina.  This is a very serious situation.  We may lose this laboratory. Please take a few minutes to raise your voice in support of the lab and its importance to us.  Thank you for considering this and for taking action!  


Here is information to aid in your response:


NOAA’s National Ocean Service’s Request to Close the Beaufort Laboratory


Issue – Long term cost of maintaining the NOAA Beaufort Laboratory (NOAA, National Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research)


“To strengthen NOAA’s coastal sci­ence in the long run, NOAA proposes to reduce its phys­ical footprint and fixed costs by closing the Beaufort, N.C. laboratory…” 

On this budget item, a NOAA spokesperson in Silver Spring was quoted saying:  “this aging facility requires infrastructure repairs and improvements exceeding agency budget resources..”   

Response – Urge proposed closure of NOAA’s Beaufort Laboratory be removed from the NOS budget

Inaccurate, outdated information that overstated the costs of maintaining the NOAA Beaufort Laboratory was used in the analysis that lead to the request to close this facility.


In recent years, NOAA has invested approximately $14 million in new construction and renovations at the Beaufort Laboratory. 


An updated engineering report (2014) documents the condition of the facility is not structurally unsound. There have been substantial improvements to the facility.

Facilities Upgrades

2006  $7 M   Administration Building replaced (NC NERRs contributed $1M)

2007  $2.1 M         Bridge replaced – cost shared with Duke University

2008  $0.86M   Maintenance Building replaced

2009       $0.5M   Air conditioning / Air handler replacement and mold abatement

2009       $1.0M     Sample Storage/Chemical Storage/Haz-Mat buildings consolidated and replaced

2014       $1.65M  Seawall repair, electrical upgrade and State of NC funded storm water control


Current Staffing at NOAA’s Beaufort Laboratory

71 Full time federal staff members, 40 National Marine Fisheries staff, 31 National Ocean Service staff

33.5 Contract positions and 8 NC NEERs staff


The National Ocean Service, in initiating the closure request, understated the NOS staff and did not account for the more than 40 National Marine Fisheries Service staff or the 8 staff members of the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve (Rachel Carson) co located at the facility. In total 108 staff and contractors will be directly affected by this closure.


Desired Outcomes

  • NOAA’s Beaufort Laboratory closure proposed in the 2015 President’s Budget Request should not be included in the NOS budget.
  • Congress should inform NOAA that requests for closure of NOS laboratories will not be entertained in the future.
  • Congress should direct NOAA to restore staffing, operational support and funding for science to full operational levels to utilize the capacity of the NOAA Beaufort Laboratory.
  • NOAA should provide a report and a timeline to Congress with a strategy to address these concerns.


Science Issues - NOAA’s FY 15 Budget Summary


Issue - While the National Ocean Service, NOAA is calling for the closure of the Beaufort NC laboratory, it is requesting an increase of $4M to another center to support Ecological Forecasting of Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB), Hypoxia, pathogens and Species Distributions.



It is ironic the budget initiative for FY2015 requests increased research funding for coastal ocean issues , including harmful algal blooms, hypoxia, and coastal ecosystem management at the same time it is proposing to close the Beaufort Laboratory, which has both well-established expertise and facilities required to address many of those very same issues.  .  


The Beaufort Laboratory has established an extraordinary record for scientific excellence in its research. NOAA has repeatedly recognized individual researchers, research teams, and the Laboratory as a whole for the outstanding quality of the work performed there.  The laboratory’s excellent research capabilities and reputation also attract support, both from other branches of NOAA and from other organizations which have recognized potential benefits of the Laboratory’s studies, and long have augmented the support provided by NOAA.  



The House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies subcommittee will be accepting comments for the record.  Go this website


Deadline for submission of your comments is 31 March 2014.




Jean Beasley

The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center

Topsail Island, NC



For all of the wildlife on earth their future must depend upon the conscience of mankind.

Dr. Archie Carr

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Finding Hope Among the Doubtful

I've been texting with an old high school friend lately from landlocked Elmira, NY.  Many of my friends and family are not quite sure about this work that I do.  Number one, I spend many weeks of the year out on the open water collecting surface samples, and two, that I actually think I am going to make a difference in plastic consumption.  He commented on how the debris field that was mistaken for the missing Malaysia plane should make people realize how much trash is in the ocean, though he added, "Its not going to change unless people stop being selfish gluttons . . ."  I responded, "That's why I work with little people on up to college students because they are the only hope for change."
Studying biofilm on plastic
I sometimes wonder myself, out of all the issues in the world, why would I try taking on something as popular as plastics and inadvertently the chemical and petroleum industry.  Couldn't my time and money be spent better on more worthy causes like child or animal welfare?  I don't have to think about it long before I get back into the saddle since the work that we are doing is for BOTH child and animal welfare.  Because only a small percentage of the over 80,000 chemical compounds in production has ever been tested for safety, it is vital that independent research groups make sure the plastics we use for our beverage and food containers are safe for the sake of our children.  Furthermore, we lose 300,000 sea birds and over 100,000 marine mammals annually due to plastic ingestion and/or entanglement.  We've got a lot of work to do to slow down these numbers and why we are committed despite the challenges.

Sorting  N. Atlnatic surface samples with students
On the flip side,  plastic marine debris provides such an array of research possibilities. I cannot think of a better way to spend my time than having undergraduates learn scientific method in the field while they observe beach dynamics through the collection of beach samples.  Others learn sophisticated programs besides Excel, like Grapher, and ArcGIS, all of which look good on their resumes.  Because plastic marine debris is visible, it does not necessarily require complicated instruments like what is needed to study mercury, PCB, or DDT and allows for students from many disiplines to participate in the research.  Plastic marine debris serves as a tool for students to observe, form hypothesis, quantify, and formulate conclusions based on the data they collect.  That said, some of our students do preform chemical analysis. One of our students proved that PAHs transfer from plastics into sea turtle gastric-intestinal juices.  Other students are setting up an experiment to see if micro zooplankton will selectively feed on plastic particulates while another student is attempting to answer the question, "Do plastic water bottles leach chemicals into their "ultra-filtered" water?"
Found in an upsidedown cup and released

Though we are making strides in answering these questions in our lab, it requires adequate funding, and with small donations we could do so much more.  Currently, Jack Johnson is donating $2,500 as match funds.  But without donations, we will not be able to collect the funds desperately needed to continue the educational work that can lead to better conservation efforts.  Please consider a $5 donation