NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

Visiting Scientist, Michael Ford, Oceanographer

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With the cruises for 2010 over and the ship at dock, we turn to the laboratories for the other half of EX1006 , also known as the Trans-Pacific Plankton Survey.  Almost two weeks at sea (followed by three weeks at sea on EX1005) and a hard-working crew that was let loose on several crates of oceanographic equipment yields a good set of samples.  That said, we are always craving more samples and stations because as excitement for the project builds, questions come up and ideas start flying.  It’s why many of us love the work.  That same excitement will stoke the fires and keep us going over the next several months of careful laboratory work and data analysis.  We’ll try to provide updates along the way.

Here’s the rundown of the who, what, and why of the collections:

I.  Microplastic samples – particles greater than 1/3 of a millimeter

o    Gear: manta net

o    Stations: about four per day from Honolulu to San Francisco

o    Processing: counting and sizing particles, looking at zooplankton captured as well

o    Who: Miriam Goldstein at Scripps

o    Helps us understand…

  • what is out there and how much
  • one width of the Garbage Patch using first and last occurrence in the nets

II.  “Micro-micro” plastic samples – particles greater than 2/100 of a millimeter

o    Gear:  An ordinary bucket followed by filtering through 20-micron filters

o    Stations: as often as possible from Honolulu to San Francisco

o    Processing: spectroscopy and other techniques to get to particle counts and sizes

o    Who: Miriam Goldstein at Scripps (see her blog <link to Miriam’s blog> on this site)

o    Helps us understand…

  • more detail about what is out there
  • more about the possibility of ingestion by plankton

III.  Microplastic samples for chemistry – particles greater than 1/3 of a millimeter

o    Gear: manta net

o    Stations: one per day from Honolulu to San Francisco

o    Processing: various lab techniques – we’ll blog about this topic in more detail later

o    Who: NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service Laboratory in Seattle, WA

o    Helps us understand…

  • what types of toxins might be in or on the plastic particles
  • more about the potential impacts the plastic might have on the surrounding ecosystem

IV.  Zooplankton samples

o    Gear: Continuous Plankton Recorder

o    Stations: it ran almost continuously from Guam to Honolulu and Honolulu to San Francisco – that’s nearly 5100 nautical miles of towing.

o    Processing:  visual and microscopic examination of lengths of silk with embedded plankton

o    Who: NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service Laboratory in Narragansett, RI

o    Helps us understand…

  • the density and species diversity of the plankton population living near/in the Garbage Patch
  • the differences and similarities in zooplankton populations as you leave the coast and move to the open ocean
  • the differences and similarities between zooplankton to the west of Hawaii and to the east of Hawaii

Michael Ford, Oceanographer
Office of the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries
NOAA Fisheries Service

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

One thought on “Visiting Scientist, Michael Ford, Oceanographer

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