By the end of this year, the worldwide annual production of plastics will surpass 300 million tons. More than one-third of this production of plastics is for disposable items, and therefore has a very short useful lifespan on timescales of seconds, minutes, or hours (throwaway cups, straws, plastic bags). However, once discarded into the environment they will last for hundreds, thousands, or millions of years. By the end of this year, the worldwide annual production of plastics will surpass 300 million tons and accounts for 8% of the world oil production. Plastic pollution of varying sizes is found to pollute the oceans from the equator to the poles and the list of wildlife affected by this discarded debris is long and includes seabirds, seals, whales and turtles. (Barnes et al., 2009; Gregory, 2009; Halden, 2010; Hopewell et al., 2009; Thompson et al., 2009)
In November of 2010, I will set sail with the non-profit organization 5Gyres from Rio de Janiero in South America to Cape Town on the tip of South Africa. The goal of this journey is to seek the existence of another "Garbage Patch." My goal in this journey is to use scientific research to look for adverse effects to the ocean as well as its inhabitants from the discarded plastic trash that currently swirls in waters across the globe. To this day, 5Gyres has set sail across the middle of the North and South Pacific, the North Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean. In each of these subtropical gyres (or large circular current patterns) they have found an accumulation of lost plastic debris at sea. The South Atlantic is their last victim, and we are proposing to tackle it in four weeks of exploration on the open sea!
I am extremely thankful to have been invited upon this journey with Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen of 5Gyres. This organization is extremely dedicated to better understanding this serious global environmental issue, finding solutions and educating millions about the ocean and it's plastic pollution. This experience will provide me with an excellent opportunity to conduct exciting scientific research, benefit from an amazing educational adventure, and help share my knowledge with the world so that we all can make a difference. What interests me most about this problem of plastics in the environment is the impacts on marine life. There are so many amazing creatures in the sea that are undeserving of living in a glorified landfill. Plastics in the ocean can affect these creatures in two ways: mechanical and chemical. What I plan to research is the chemical aspect, where this plastic can deliver toxins to the animal by leaching into the water or into the organism upon ingestion when mistaken for food. On this journey I will work as hard as I can to capture a better understanding of this issue so that we can begin to effectively tackle the problem. During the entire journey I will be collecting samples and running analyses on top of helping man the 9-person sailboat!
When I return, I promise to use my knowledge for the greater good by submitting for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals as well as offer public lectures and work to inform policy. I am willing to dedicate my career to finding solutions to this problem, here is why I am asking for help from you:
5Gyres has offered to pay for my trip which will cost about $5000. Supplies for my research will be scavenged from grants and university funding that I have received or am applying for. What I am missing is my plane ticket to get to Brazil (~$950) and to get home from South Africa (~$1200). I am asking for enough money to cover my flight as well as carbon offset credits ($200). My goal is to raise $2,350 in order to accomplish this goal. Any funding over the goal will be happily received and used for sample analyses. Any help is greatly appreciated and I will reward those who can help pitch in for a cleaner ocean!
- (56 days)