Microplastics in the Irish marine environment

“Are you filtering sea water again?!?!”

…That is my usual greeting from crew members when I board the research vessel to carry out sample collection. Most of my data collection is carried out at sea, and I (Amy) have just returned for another sample collection in the North Atlantic on the R.V. Celtic Explorer, Ireland’s seagoing research vessel. I’ve spent the first two months of 2014 adding a few more sampling locations for one of my PhD chapters. I am just back from a equipment trial out near the porcupine bank in the North Atlantic. In January I collected data alongside a group of scientists on Cetaceans on the Frontier 5 (http://www.cotf5.blogspot.ie).   

As part of my PhD research I have been collecting water samples onboard the RV Celtic Explorer as she undertakes different research cruises in the Irish offshore waters. I have been looking at the distribution and fate of microplastics in the North Atlantic and Irish waters. Microplastics are generally buoyant and found in the top few meters of water, if they are fouled by organisms they can sink to the sea floor, however the purpose of this work focuses on the sub-surface water. Samples have been collected during 8 research cruises and I have filtered over one million litres of water (this is about the amount of water required to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool).

I won’t look at the samples until I return to shore, this way I can control the laboratory conditions.

From the samples I have collected during previous cruises, fibres are the most common type of plastic identified. The results will be used to compile a picture of microplastics in the marine environment. It is hard to say the source of the microplastics at the moment, however we will be running mass spectroscopy to work out the chemical structure of the microplastics polymers.

I have written a couple of other blog posts during previous cruises in 2013:

IMG_1567
R.V. Celtic Explorer, Amy’s floating office
 Published by Amy Lusher

 

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