School Email Exchange

Who/what inspired this project ot take place?

Posted on November 07 2012

Question submitted by Shenendehowa High School

Undergraduates participating in Sea Education Association’s (SEA) SEA Semester program have been counting plastic brought up in neuston net tows for more than 25 years in the North Atlantic and 10 years in the North Pacific.  These have been archived at SEA’s campus in Woods Hole, MA.  Scientists at SEA realized they had a unique data set over many years along the cruise tracks their boats sail each year.  A research team looked at SEA's North Atlantic data after reading reports of large patches of garbage in the Pacific.

The research team—Kara Lavender Law from SEA, Skye Morét-Ferguson and Giora Proskurowski, who held joint appointments at SEA and WHOI, Emily Peacock and Christopher Reddy from WHOI, and Nikolai A. Maximenko and Jan Hafner from the University of Hawai’i—reported their findings in Science magazine in 2010.  This group organized the Plastics at SEA: North Atlantic Expedition 2010 when SEA’s SSV Corwith Cramer became available for a research cruise that could build upon the SEA plastics data and go beyond the usual cruise tracks to search the eastern areas of the gyre in the Sargasso Sea.

That cruise was very successful, adding much more data about plastics in the North Atlantic. When SEA’s SSV Robert C. Seamans became available this fall, it was a logical next step to use it as a base to research plastics in the North Pacific subtropical gyre, beyond that done by undergraduate students on SEA Semester cruises.