Scientists at Sea Podcast – Sail Against Plastic Part II

Show notes

You might remember that earlier in the series we spoke to Flora Rendell and Lowenna Jones about an arctic sailing expedition they were about to embark upon in 2018 titled ‘Sail Against Plastic’. Well they’ve been there, done that, and got the microplastic samples to prove it. If you didn’t catch the episode, I would recommend having a listen to it here.

The Sail Against Plastic team – Photo credit – Ben Porter

In short, Sail Against Plastic was a two-week multidisciplinary research expedition taking place in the waters off Svalbard. Sailing aboard the Blue Clipper, the team investigated the impact of plastics and noise pollution on this arctic environment whilst producing film, photography and artwork to capture the experience and illustrate their findings. You can find out about the background of the expedition on the Sail Against Plastic website.

This time Flora is joining us with Daniel Osmond, with both of them being greatly involved in the scientific aspect of the expedition. Since recording they have both gone on to secure PhDs, well done to both!


“It was just a great example of how different people with different experiences, interests and skill sets can all come together”


About our guests

Flora Rendell – Scientific Director

Flora is a current postgraduate research student at the University of Exeter, with a strong interest in science outreach and the effects of anthropogenic stressors on populations and habitats. Her key interests in aquatic habitats and the conservation and management of local sites around the UK.

 

 

Daniel Osmond – Scientific Officer

Daniel is an MSci Zoology Student at the University of Exeter. During his degree program and ongoing work in Wotton’s research group he has been spurred on to use ecological knowledge to help us to protect threatened ecosystems.

 

 

You can find out more about the team through this link.


Topics discussed

The Blue Clipper: Photo credit – Jamie Haigh
  • Background of Sail Against Plastic
  • Where did the expedition go?
  • How do you do plastic research on a ship that’s not designed for it?
  • How to analyse the microplastics samples that were found
  • Building the team
  • Multidisciplinary expeditions – Science, art, film-making all in one trip.
  • How the expedition was funded
  • Citizen Science projects
  • How do you make the best of 24 hours daylight for research?

 


 

Resources

The Sail Against Plastic expedition film can be viewed above.

Sail Against Plastic Blog

Expedition Photography

Sail Against Plastic Twitter

Sail Against Plastic Facebook


This was Ethan’s final episode (for now, at least), if you want to follow his adventures, take a look at the Trail and Errors website.

Hosted by Ethan Wrigglesworth and Ben Toulson

Episode and show notes produced by Ben Toulson and Ethan Wrigglesworth

Check out other episodes of the podcast here.

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#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

 

A Day in the Life of an Arctic Field Scientist

Words by Clara Nielson, University of Exeter PhD Student

A day in the life of an Arctic field scientist

Hello! My name is Clara Nielson and I am a PhD student from Exeter University studying the impacts of global change on marine species in Dr Ceri Lewis’s lab. We are currently at 78 degrees north in a place called Ny Alesund, in Svalbard at the UK NERC Arctic Station for AXA XL Arctic Live with Encounter Edu. We are here to both conduct important research but also to communicate what we are doing to schools around the world.

Clara Nielson and Dr Ceri Lewis in the Arctic

Pulling open the curtains to a view of snow covered mountains and glaciers on the edge of a fjord will guarantee to put a smile on your face and put you in a good mood for the rest of the day. Our usual day starts waking up in the base and heading to the canteen for breakfast. Ny Alesund is home to a range of international scientists all coming and going at different parts of the year and the canteen is the communal hub where everyone can share a meal, and a story or two, before heading off for the day.

Arctic View

Weather permitting (we have had a few base days where we are unable to get out onto the boat due to high winds) we usually spend the day out on Teisten, the research boat, collecting water samples from different parts and depths of the fjord. We are out here to monitor the pH and carbonate chemistry of the seawater, as part of a global ocean acidification project. Ocean acidification is the change in ocean chemistry as a result of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and this process is happening fastest in the Arctic. The samples we are taking will help fill in the global picture of just how fast this process is happening. We are also sampling for any microplastics that may be in the seawater as the Arctic is also thought to be a hotspot for microplastic accumulation due to ocean currents. We were here last year doing the same sampling, and we did find some plastic, so it will be really interesting to compare our data and that of other long term projects to see how the Arctic is changing. Today it was -7oC, which is pretty cold but add to that the wind chill and we were out in temperatures of about -25 oC. This made sampling slightly trickier than at home as the seawater and all of our sampling gear was freezing pretty quickly, not to mention how cold my hands were getting! Its hard to describe how that sort of temperature feels but basically it’s painfully cold. Thankfully team work, biscuits and a kettle kept everything working!

 

The cold is soon forgotten as once the days sampling is over we can head back to our heated base but the hot shower has to wait just a little longer! First, we need to make sure all our kit is cleaned ready to go again tomorrow and the samples are stored away correctly.

After dinner we spend a bit of time looking through samples and manage to show our Arctic base manager Nick his first sea angel! This is a type of zooplankton called a pteropod, which flapped around our petridish and made this seasoned field man swoon at its beauty.

Frozen equipment is a daily challenge.

Before bed I spend a bit of time with Jamie, from Encountered Edu, going through what I shall be doing tomorrow as it is my day to take part in Arctic Live. Arctic Live is the other important reason we are all here, as alongside our research we are taking part in a live streaming educational lessons and question and answer sessions where we speak to school children live from around the world about our experiences and answer their questions about the Arctic and what it is like to work here. I am looking forward to hearing what questions the children have come up with! Its really cool that we can share what we are doing live from this amazing place, I hope it inspires them.

It is time for bed once we are all set for tomorrow, the 24-hour daylight is making it slightly harder to get to sleep as you feel like it should be the middle of the afternoon, not 11pm but it is important that we all get a good rest.

I feel very privileged to be out in such a stunningly beautiful place and it is without doubt the best place I have ever done field work in. The wildlife here is amazing too, today we saw a Minke whale from the end of the boat which was incredible. The Arctic is at the forefront of climate change where the impacts are being felt first and fastest and is also a hotspot for plastic pollution so it is probably the most important place to be doing this kind of science right now.

All images a courtesy of Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop of Encounter Edu.

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, biological,  medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields.

Find us on: Facebook : Twitter : Instagram : LinkedIn  

If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

 

Scientists at Sea Podcast: Sail Against Plastic

Show Notes

 

 

 

Guests – Flora Rendell and Lowenna Jones

 

 

 

Sail Against Plastic started as an idea to simply undertake a sailing expedition, over just a few months it developed into an Arctic mission to investigate unseen pollutants, namely microplastics and noise pollution.

 

“We are a collaborative expedition hoping to unveil and reveal the invisible pollutants of the arctic”

 

The Sail Against Plastic team. Photo credit – Ben Porter

 

Why the Arctic?

It is well documented that plastic debris has been circulating around our oceans via 5 ocean gyres. It is now thought there maybe a sixth gyre that carries plastic up into the Arctic circle. Recent discoveries supporting this theory have shown that plastic has been found in sea ice.

 

“As sea ice melts that could be opening up more microplastics that have been trapped in that sea ice… it shows that we’ve been influencing the world for a long time”

 

A selection of plastics found on mainland Svalbard. Photo credit – Ben Porter

 

A view from the Blue Clipper: Photo credit – Ben Porter

These pieces of plastic aren’t necessarily what you would expect, while there plastic bottles and bags found in these areas, there may be an even greater prevalence of microplastics, tiny pieces of plastic debris resulting from the breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste.

 

“It’s not these big large pieces of plastic, it’s not a floating island that we’re going to find’

 

At the time of recording, the team, a diverse group of scientists, artists, environmentalists, photographers and videographers, were just a few days away from setting sail on the Barents Sea from Svalbard aboard the Blue Clipper.

 

 

The team’s manta trawl, used to collect microplastics. Photo credit – Ben Porter

 

 

“I think the main thing is making issues that are so strongly linked to humans… making you feel emotive about them… through art and through film, people will feel emotive about it and will care, we hope”

 

“And make it relevant to people in the UK and Europe and connect communities that are halfway across the world that have similarities and can work together to find a solution to our crazy plastic addiction”

 

 

 

 

 

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Website – https://www.sailagainstplastic.com/

Blog – https://www.sailagainstplastic.com/blog-1/

Facebook – @amessagefromthearctic

Instagram – @amessagefromthearctic

Twitter – @Sail4seas

Art – Jess Grimsdale & Further info

 

Hosted by Ethan Wrigglesworth and Molly Meadows

Episode and show notes produced by Ben Toulson

 

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!