Showing posts with label plastic pollution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label plastic pollution. Show all posts

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

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Thank you Project Aware and Voters, "What Goes Around, Comes Around" Wins Grant

It is rare when one non-profit will provide a contest that helps support another non-profit. This speaks volumes for Project Aware.  Over the past 10 days Plastic Ocean Project's science through art traveling art show has been in an international voting contest.  The votes have been tallied and thanks to so many of you for voting and sharing, POP will have the funding for gas to drive from the east coast to the west, stopping a cities along the way and sharing our What Goes Around, Comes Around exhibit. This show, created out of the plastics collected from nearly 10,000 nm of open ocean research, is full of educational information as well as ideas on what can be done about plastic pollution..  All of the contestants had stellar projects - believe me there are no losers in this competition. Project Aware, we are honored to be included in this contest. We were the only American project selected!

Since our show is to create a wave of awareness across the US, being handpicked encourages us even more that this is a worthy endeavor.  Thank you all for your votes, continued support, and membership to our blog.

On another generous note, where the unexpected financially supports another, please check out an article written about our junior ambassador Annelie Miller in the Mill Valley Patch Newspaper. Read how she not only voluntarily fundraised for Plastic Ocean Project, raising more than $700 for our work, but has been an activist in her school. Thank you again Annelie. You have made a big difference and you are only 12! We are stoked to see such hope through your generation

Friday, August 3, 2012

"That is the sickest sample I've seen so far"

In preparation for a talk at the Cape Fear River Watch Saturday August 4th, I came across this footage I shot when sailing across the North Pacific from Hawaii to California in 2009.  We were repeating the same sites Captain Charlie Moore had done in 1999 that led to his publishing scientific paper exposing the 6 to 1 plastics to zooplankton by weight.  That is disturbing enough, yet, our results from the 2009 resample showed that there was twice as much plastic by weight than the 1999 samples.   We had conducted 54 samples using two surface samplers - one for science, the other for educational purposes.  This video was shot over 1000 miles from land and yet illustrates the disgusting contents of plastic found in our educational sampler.  The majority of plastics found are bite size pieces festering at the surface where the base of the fish at the base of the food chain, on up to whales, feed.  I became ill after seeing sample after sample of what looked like pristine waters, reveal a horrible truth, that we have polluted every corner of our planet.

The feasibility of going out there and cleaning it up is not the best solution. Reducing our use of one- time use plastics is by far the best answer to this ubiquitous problem.  By doing so we reduce the production of plastics made out of limited resources, (toxic petroleum and natural gas) that we use once then throw away that will persist in the environment for 100s of years.  Solutions like buying locally promoting small business in your community - soap makers, farmers, thrift shops, and hand-craft makers to name a few.  When we do this, these business require a lot less packaging. REthink everything you buy.  Make a game out of supporting small businesses and encourage them to not use disposible plastics.  It beats trying to get a corporation to stop using it and you have a better shot of being heard.  Keep the image of this sample in your mind if you need help remembering why it is important.  Some good resources if you need some ideas are Danielle Richardet's blog, It Starts With Me and Beth Terry's book, Plastic Free.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bermuda Brings Science, Students, and Sargassum Together

I arrived at Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) campus Sunday afternoon with two trunks of research supplies, a backpack full of camera gear, and a small bag of clothing.  Thankfully, fashion is not a requirement.  We, Michael Gonsior, Bill Cooper, and I, found Maureen Conte sitting on the BIOS campus porch overlooking the inlet where the RV Atlantic Explorer wades in the bright teal Bermudian waters.  The stately BIOS facility has been housing ocean researchers since 1903.  Dr. Conte is the lead scientist for the Ocean Flux Program (OFP), among the longest running research in the open-ocean and it’s because of her sharing precious ship-time we are able to do our third year of open-ocean sampling for plastic in the North Atlantic gyre.

Aerial photo of Sargassum mat by Erin Cummings
Monday we spent most of the day loading the ship with tons, literally, tons of instruments, lines, wires, buoys, and hardware that is necessary for the collection of sediment OFP seeks 3,500 meters deep.  When we were not loading the ship, we were preparing the manta trawl we use to do our surface sampling.  We had plenty of hands to help.  Maureen recruited one grad student, three undergrads, and one high school student to join in the five-day cruise.  Two of the students are from Bermuda, a rare opportunity for local students, in hopes to foster more local participation in the future.  I will be posting interviews with the students while out at sea. You'll hear firsthand about their open-ocean science experiences - lookout prime time "Reality TV."

Why all the camera gear?  Not only will I be interviewing the crew about the OFP and other types of research happening on this voyage, but we also hope to record Sargassum Natans unique to the Sargasso Sea, another area of interest for our plastic debris research.  Sargassum has it’s own ecosystem that we hope to film and photograph to illustrate the life that lives in the Sargassum along with plastic we find in it.  Plastics in the ocean have proven to cause both entanglement and ingestion issues.

Last month, Jason Andre, Sarah Malette, Julian Kehaya went for a three-day cruise with Captain Abram Lamertson and first mate Carolina Priester to videotape and photograph what lurks underneath the Sargassum 50 miles off North Carolina’s coast.  What we anticipated to find were fish that seek out the weed for cover and for food.   We found fish, but what we didn’t anticipate finding was the amount of plastic in the water column below the Sargassum.  In my years of researching marine plastics and the way it accumulates in Sargassum, I expected to find plastic intermingled in the weed lines known as windrows. What we found was the same ocean dynamics that caused the windrows of Sargassum to form on the surface also caused plastics to converge throughout the water column below the Sargassum.  Here is just a rough video of what Jason videotaped.
The significants of this footage is quantity of plastic film-like plastic such as food wraps and plastic bags parts, which look like one of sea turtles favorite foods, jellyfish.   Sargassum is where sea turtles go to feed. Yikes!  

Join the journey as I will be posting live from Sargasso Sea daily.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We Vote With Our Dollars

One of the reasons why plastic packaging got out of control was because we didn't think we had a choice.   It wasn't until people started questioning our plastic consumption and educating others that we actually could live without so much plastic packaging that there has been a shift.  People like Annie Leonard, Charlie Moore, Ted Danson, and Beth Terry inspired so many of us to get curious too.  What we found out was plastic creates problems on many levels, from the limited resources that it is made from like petroleum and natural gas, to the way it ends up in the environment wreaking havoc on animals, to the mere fact that it take centuries to break down and along the way deposits harmful chemical into us and the environment.  

What can we do about it?  More and more we are starting to see plastic-free items on our shelves and that is because we are part of a base-line shift away from plastic.  We are only at the beginning, but as more and more of us vote with our dollars, purchasing items based on their limited use of plastic, we control what is on our store shelves.  We vote with our dollars.  In the process, we are supporting small businesses like Glass Darma, Chico Bags, and Green Room Greeting Cards.  If you want to learn more about just how to be plastic-free, order Beth Terry's book, "How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Solutions to Plastic Pollution

Trash that would be buried and useless
Plastic, paper, and cans recycled instead of landfilled
Kathy Russell from TFC Recycling is one of the many people trying to make good on one time use plastic, paper, cans, and cardboard.  Her work is on the other end of the spectrum from Algalita's, 5Gyres, Jennifer O'Keefe, Danielle Richardet and what I’ve been doing over the past few years.  While we have been researching the breadth of plastic pollution and educating people on the problems with one-time use plastics, the people of TFC Recycling have been taking on this issue from another angle.  They’re giving trash value and I’m a firm believer once we give trash value, we’ll make sure it goes where it belongs, like putting money in a bank.  We don’t just throw money on the ground – that would be silly.  So is it to throw trash on the ground. 

Trash that is burned to create steam energy
The materials collected from "trash" generate dollars for this business.  These items end up going back into more products instead of sitting on the floor of a landfill while we cut down more trees, drill for more oil and gas, and extract aluminum from the earth.  Of course the companies that do that work don’t like recycling.  These businesses lose out even though their some of the richest companies in the world.   How do we fight big business?  Use less plastic and one time use items and recycle the ones you do. 

Because of Kathy’s connections we, the Richardet family and me, were also able to visit the Hampton/NASA Steam Plant.  Here they take garbage and burn it to create steam for our government lab research.  The emissions are of critical concern and of course one of my most pressing questions.  According to our tour guide, the plant surpasses  government standards of emissions meaning they burn cleaner than legal requirements while reducing the demand for petroleum, coal, and natural gas.  And other than trucking it around (we have to with petroleum, coal, and gas anyway) it is free energy.  Makes more sense than drilling miles off shore and a mile deep into the ocean floor.  Not that there aren't risks but it is much easier to put a fire out on land than it is to contain millions of barrels of oil sprawled 1000s of miles across the ocean or getting chemicals out of drinking water from fracking for natural gas.  Think about it. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Texas Teens Take on Plastic Marine Pollution

Coyle Middle School's science teacher Jim Manley was selected to be a team member for lead scientist Maureen Conte, the Ocean Flux Program. He earned this experience via the TXESS Revolution through the University of Texas at Austin. What he didn't foresee was meeting the Plastic Ocean Crew while learning about the Ocean Flux Program off the coast of Bermuda.  Together the two teams of researchers steamed around the North Atlantic for five days last summer.  What Mr. Manley learned from his experience he took back to the classroom. 

The Ocean Flux Program studies sediments on the ocean floor and is the longest open-ocean sediment research - roughly 40 years.  Plastic pollution in the marine environment has over 450 scientific peered reviewed papers published and started about the same time.  Our findings last summer revealed plastic fragments in every sample.   Witnessing this first hand, (literally countless hours of handpicking plastic from sargassum) motivated Mr. Manley to educate his 7th grade students on this issue.  As a group project, Mr Manley encouraged each of his seven science classes to research the problems with plastic in the marine environement.

I had the privilege to Skype to each class telling them about my research and then answer their excellent questions.  Here are the results of their research and their unique way of communicating their findings.

1st period
Group1- Rylie Wreyford, Ashton Simons,and Summer Alonzo do a great job at answering questions related to plastic pollution AND their website will JUMP out at you.

2nd period
Group 1-Jessica Davis ,Ashlie Byland, Diana Torres, Kangwa Chisanga. This link gets my "seal" of approval! (I mean sea lion)

Group 2- Michael Guerrero, Lance Key, Alyssa Buller, Allison Hood.We hope our website is able to provide plenty of information to all who would like to learn and study the plastic ocean thank you for everything- Michael Guerrero!
The email is the password is 4617@m

Group 3- vance,blake,malik,ka’juan,angel. This website makes a huge splash! Great design.

4th period
1st group
AUBRIE MCINTOSH ,NICOLE JONES,MELISSA HARE,MIA JOHNSON  Simply stated "Pick up that plastic!"  It really is that simple! Great use of color!

5th period
1st group  These students put some time into this one - "Teens of today's generation are the ones who make a difference in today's world."  And you, Kayla Trzupek, Renee Kermes, Morgan Cater, and Gabby Maldonado are doing just that!. Check it out!

2nd group
"Its very important for our generation to turn this around and fix it!" Great line students! Go to  to learn more.  Way to go Courtney Pryor, Lindsey Pikulinski, Cody Richards, Hunter Rollins
4th Group
Umul Lalee, Auqustina Omenihu, Abigail, Catera Farlough - this is probably the coolest website I've ever seen- you guys rock!  Sound and cool transitions are sweet.

5th Group
Facebook Page Name (The Plastic Oceans) These students came up with the idea of Questions and Answers as a way to educate.  Brilliant!!/pages/The-Plastic-Oceans/193144610719078
By Logan Bonner, Paige Carrera, Rene Cristales, Leah Nguyen, Aundre Glenn
7th period
Rachel Conachen,Melanie velazquez, sarah honza, Abigail Osborn - Factual and full of info - awesome way to educate people on the problems with plastic (I have a special place in my heart for the name too!)
Facebook : The Plastic Ocean Project

Team 2
Though there is some creative spelling, the message is not lost in translation.  You'll get some insight into the problems with plastic with this link.
by : Leelise Hiticha, Mariah Alaniz, Victoria Patterson, Alden Gartrell

Team 3
Go to this site and VOTE if you think plastic is a problem in the ocean!
Go to-
Team members: Caleb Darnell, Bailey Aleo, Ronny Herrera, Jack Conely, Luke Pearson

Team 4  Learn how the abiota and biota are affected by plastic.
Team members: Will Plunk, Ryan Tayara, Danny Clegg, Blake Allen

Team 5
"Helping get rid of the plastic is VERY easy. All you have to do is once a day pick up ONE piece of trash ANYWHERE" to read more good quotes like this one go to:
Team Narwhal Members: Lauren Morrow, Kiara Bess, Savannah Shults, Allison Judd

Team 6
"The ocean covers 72% (and rising) of this small planet and is home to most of the globe's biomass, or living matter, and biodiversity" and this is reason enough to protect our oceans - good stuff Team 6!
Team Members- Rebeca Volosen , Delyla Halil ,Thuy Nguyen, Denxel Briones, Alante Montgomery

Team 7
Last but not least - the quotes on this website say so much about human impacts on many levels.  But my favorite is "If each of us did just one thing to help the environment, we could change the world.” Jean Beasley—Sea Turtle Hospital
Team Members: Jocelyn Sanchez, Hayle Mackey, Amanda Lo, Tori Goodwin

Of all the posts I've ever done, this one is filled with hope of the future for our planet.  Thank you Jim Manley and all your students who contributed to this page.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Treacherous Mountains in the South Atlantic Ocean: Day 29

Blog 13-- Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So imagine that you wake up in the morning and your house is on such a slant that you have to walk on the moldings to get to the bathroom  That is exactly what I had to do this AM.  Gravity pulls at you like a giant serpent wanting to throw you down.  You fight with every knuckle, every limb, and all your core strength to move inches at a time.  Occasionally, it will mix it up and heave you a foot in the air then gravity finds you.  You put down your best Spiderman landing and try to stick.

Anna flying!  
No one is allowed on deck without a life vest and strapping in.  On my 2am-6am watch I was eating oatmeal when a wave decided I had enough.  It washed me 6 feet across the cockpit and stole my oatmeal. The Sea State is "roughly" a six with gale force winds in the 30s.  We're making great time and could be in Cape Town on the 8th.  As I sit here at the saloon table typing, shards of sunlight flicker through the gallery windows as waves crash over the bow.  Chelsea came down from the deck since she is on her. She checked on her -20˚ freezer that doesn't like working on a slant.  She stood dripping, pounded by the waves.

We are less than 300 nautical miles from Cape Town and will have to endure these treacherous mountains until the end.  Cape Town is near the horn of South Africa where two ocean currents wrestle it out for control.

I am reading "Adrift," by Steven Callahan.  It's a true story of him surviving 76 days at sea in his emergency raft he named "Ducky."  It happened in 1983.  I'll leave you with this passage from the book and why what we are doing out here matters.

"We [Steven and his raft] drift through a line of weed piled up like autumn leaves.  The Sargasso is laced with trash.  For sixty days the ocean has been pristine, a world that might never have been touched by man.  Ships and a single chuck of Styrofoam have been the only evidence of man still inhabits the earth.  Suddenly my surroundings are full of their excrement-- our excrement... The highway of trash stretches from South to North as far as I can see.  For hours Ducky wades through one lane of rubbish after another.  The highway is miles wide."

This is from his 61st day lost at sea.  He must have found the high-pressure system also known as the accumulation zone where we habitually find plastic pollution.

More later.

Bonnie Over the Ocean

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jumping on Ship

As an attempt to come up with the funding necessary for me to join 5Gyres and Pangaea Explorations, I'm jumping rope for cash. check it out.
I'll jump 100,000 times to raise $10,000 necessary to join the research crew sampling plastic on the first every transect from Brazil to S. Africa sampling for plastic marine debris.

Why is it so important? There are 5 major gyres in our world ocean and they have a reputation for accumulating our plastic thousands of miles away from any land mass. Because we don't see it, we don't know its there. If we don't know its there, we can't know the negative impact. We can't fix what we don't know is broken. And our mass production and overuse of plastic is a broken system. If we don't figure it out soon, children will be swimming in waves of plastic fragments like I witnessed in Bermuda.

Why its a problem is because plastic is mostly chemical compounds, harmful chemical, especially #3, PVC. One of the most widely used plastics in the world is the most toxic. In fact, PVC is known as the "Poison Plastic," the plastic we use to make baby toys and shower curtains. " Did you ever wonder what that smell is when you open a packaged new shower curtain? That is harmful chemicals off-gassing into your lungs. It get into our water and our marine life. Research done by Dr. Roger Payne on over 900 whales, all contained PVC compounds.

Following a national campaign by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) and other environmental groups, PVC is slowly being eliminated from our store shelves, but is far from gone. PVC often contains lead and pthalates, which have been linked to reproductive problems in humans and release carcinogens when incinerated." (4 Things not to Buy at Target)
Follow us across the S. Atlantic – it promises to be an education, an adventure, and a first!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Letting the Fox out of the Bag

So I probably haven't mentioned that I ride a motorcycle. Some would tease, if it isn't a Harley its a glorified motorized bike. I like my little Honda Rebel 250 for one because it gets about 80 miles to the gallon. It's my only mode of transportation and is plenty enough hog for me. But after today, I maybe having a change of heart.

My new found motorcycle friends all ride Harleys. On Saturdays the owner of Carolina Coast Harley-Davidson, Rick Noyes, provides free hot dogs and soda at his Market Street store in Wilmington and that is where you will often find my friends. This Saturday was no exception, but what they witnessed was. Crossing six lanes of very busy traffic came a small gray fox, which was feat enough, only this little guy had a plastic bag completely over its head. According to my friends, it could barely see as it made its way passed them and headed toward the back of the shop where they lost sight of him.

"Don't tell Bonnie," said LT Hines, "What ever you do." Butch Barnhardt told Bonnie and sure enough they all had a good laugh when I said "let's go find it." Butch was the only taker and he whined the whole way. "What are we gonna do if we find em?" Planless, he still couldn't stop me.

I wandered around along a hedgerow near where they last saw the fox. I found 12 plastic bags of all shapes, sizes, and brandings in just 10 square feet and thought, "no wonder." Now days, we find more plastic on the roadside than wild flowers, or wild anything for that matter, and maybe it is the fact that not only are people crowding out nature, but plastic debris is too. Anyway, we came up upon the owner's son who not only saw the poor traumatized fox, but took matters into his own hands. He and another co-worker corralled the fox. With one guy in front, Rick's son pulled the bag off of its head! He explained how there was so much moister inside the bag from the fox breathing that it was all fogged up. The bag had something sticky like candy that matted into its hair and caused it to stick even more - probably what the fox was looking to eat in the first place. check out this video:!/video/video.php?v=485673523407

So here is why the issue of over-use of one time use plastics is so important to me. We have no idea how many animals are maimed and die slow painful deaths due to our inability to manage plastic waste. And the worst part is, this plastic is a resource! Its petroleum energy that we can either recycle into other useful items, burn for electricity, or turn into gasoline. Instead of doing damage, it could be helping our energy crisis. If that doesn't convince you, how about this. Try not to use one time use items like plastic bags because they are made out of petroleum. By doing so we could use the petroleum for better uses. And if you have to use bags, recycle them at your local grocery store, but don't throw them away or let them get away into the environment.

Just a reminder, please support my research into the South Atlantic Gyre sampling nearly 3500 nautical miles from Brazil to Cape Town, South Africa. This research in conjunction with and educates the masses on the problems with plastic especially on animal life. We leave in less than a month - please visit and click on donate!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Research into the Atlantic Continues with

It's been less than a year since Jennifer O'Keefe and I reported the accumulation of marine debris and the plastics with bite marks found on Bermuda's beaches as well as the plastic particles that we found in the Atlantic trawls like what was found in the Pacific Garbage Patch. Now, Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins with Algalita Marine Research Foundation as well as Joel Pascal (JUNK) have taken on this research to bring awareness that confirms our finding with the BIOS cruise from last July.

This crew aboard the Sea Dragon is taking it one step further and sailing from Bermuda to the Azores in attempt to locate the accumulation zone in the Atlantic like what Captain Moore located in the Pacific.
With the appropriate funding, we hope to retrace their steps to this possible accumulation zone to compare their finding from this winter cruise to our summer '10 cruise. Follow their several blogs on the link below. Its packed with their findings. For example, on the blog you'll find possible evidence that one of the most pelagic fish in all our oceans, the trigger fish that feed the larger fish in the food chain, (the fish we eat) may be eating our plastic.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Captain Moore took on Stephen Colbert

Captain Charlie Moore defended our oceans on Comedy Central and won. Great job Charlie. Thank you Stephen Colbert for letting Charlie loose!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Charles Moore
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Funniest Find in the North Pacific Gyre

I've been doing a lot of editing from my 20 hours of footage from the North Pacific Garbage Patch. The video I have selected is from our being about 1200 miles from Hawaii and even further from any other land mass. I had been playing a game trying to pluck 10 large objects from the the ocean while traveling at 3 knots in choppy seas. Many things floated by but they had to be in reach of a handheld fish net in order to attempt to pull them out. The task takes timing as well as strength depending on (1)how many feet in the air the boat is launched from the wave action and (2)the size of the object being retrieved.

My chance to pull item number 10 within one hour came after I had asked the ocean to send me something different, something really interesting, something that would catch a viewer's attention. By the time I pulled it out I remember saying to myself, "And she has a sense of humor." I think the ocean is trying to tell us something. The item may reference how she feels we are treating her. What do you think?