Event Title

Volunteer microplastic sampling in Puget Sound: strategies for broad inclusion, education, and research

Presentation Abstract

The global plastic crisis contributes 8 million metric tons of plastic to the world’s oceans each year, equivalent to dumping one garbage truck every minute. This plastic does not break down. Instead, it breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces. Today, “microplastics” (plastic pieces smaller than 5 mm in size) can be found nearly everywhere on earth. Microplastics enter waterbodies from other sources as well. “Microbeads,” commonly used as an exfoliant, are found in facial scrubs, hand soap and toothpaste. “Microfibers” shed from fleece and other synthetic materials when washed. Wastewater treatment plants do not have the capacity to trap most microbeads and microfibers, so many are discharged into waterways. Once in the water column, microplastics act like chemical sponges that may bind toxic compounds including DDTs, PCBs, pesticides, and pathogens. When ingested, these contaminants have the potential to enter the food web, including seafood destined for human consumption. To better understand local microplastic distribution, volunteers recruited through Puget Soundkeeper collected 43 water samples from throughout the Puget Sound basin during the fall of 2017. These water samples will be analyzed through a partnership between Puget Soundkeeper, University of Puget Sound and Unleash the Brilliance. Nearly all samples are expected to contain plastic, primarily in the form of microfibers. The results will inform future monitoring stations and the project provides a successful example of an accessible citizen science program that achieves educational and research goals as well as broad inclusion. Lessons learned include strategies for streamlining data collection, distributing sampling equipment across a large geographic area, and preserving data integrity.

Session Title

Plastic Pollution and Marine Debris in the Salish Sea: Monitoring, Education, and Management and Policy Solutions

Conference Track

SSE13: Plastics

Conference Name

Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference (Seattle, WA : 2018)

Document Type

Event

SSEC Identifier

SSE13-607

Start Date

5-4-2018 1:45 PM

End Date

5-4-2018 2:00 PM

Type of Presentation

Oral

Contributing Repository

Digital content made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Geographic Coverage

Salish Sea (B.C. and Wash.)

Rights

This resource is displayed for educational purposes only and may be subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. For more information about rights or obtaining copies of this resource, please contact University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9103, USA (360-650-7534; heritage.resources@wwu.edu) and refer to the collection name and identifier. Any materials cited must be attributed to the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference Records, University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Type

text

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

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Apr 5th, 1:45 PM Apr 5th, 2:00 PM

Volunteer microplastic sampling in Puget Sound: strategies for broad inclusion, education, and research

The global plastic crisis contributes 8 million metric tons of plastic to the world’s oceans each year, equivalent to dumping one garbage truck every minute. This plastic does not break down. Instead, it breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces. Today, “microplastics” (plastic pieces smaller than 5 mm in size) can be found nearly everywhere on earth. Microplastics enter waterbodies from other sources as well. “Microbeads,” commonly used as an exfoliant, are found in facial scrubs, hand soap and toothpaste. “Microfibers” shed from fleece and other synthetic materials when washed. Wastewater treatment plants do not have the capacity to trap most microbeads and microfibers, so many are discharged into waterways. Once in the water column, microplastics act like chemical sponges that may bind toxic compounds including DDTs, PCBs, pesticides, and pathogens. When ingested, these contaminants have the potential to enter the food web, including seafood destined for human consumption. To better understand local microplastic distribution, volunteers recruited through Puget Soundkeeper collected 43 water samples from throughout the Puget Sound basin during the fall of 2017. These water samples will be analyzed through a partnership between Puget Soundkeeper, University of Puget Sound and Unleash the Brilliance. Nearly all samples are expected to contain plastic, primarily in the form of microfibers. The results will inform future monitoring stations and the project provides a successful example of an accessible citizen science program that achieves educational and research goals as well as broad inclusion. Lessons learned include strategies for streamlining data collection, distributing sampling equipment across a large geographic area, and preserving data integrity.