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?




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.

You can subscribe on most podcast apps, if you’re feeling kind please leave us a review!

#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!


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 –

Blog –

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!