Phew, that was a lot of science! Members of the NOAA MDP just concluded the Second Research Workshop on Microplastic Debris at the Center for Urban Waters in Tacoma, WA — the center is housed in an amazing LEED certified green-building right off Commencement Bay that is outfitted with everything from dual flush toilets to a rain garden and a green roof… ok back to the meeting! The meeting brought about forty scientists together to talk about what has been accomplished since the last microplastics workshop, which was held in 2008. We heard about methods for measuring the concentration of microplastics in the environment, the effects of microplastics, and the degradation of plastics in the environment. I know, that’s a lot to take in! On the second afternoon, under the guidance of risk assessment expert Wayne Landis, the group took the first steps toward determining the risk that microplastics pose to the marine environment.
Personally, as a newbie to plastics research I mostly sat back and absorbed the information being presented. But there is some pretty cool research being done, and it seems like everyone has their own niche to fill. This young field is constantly learning more about the interaction of plastics with marine organisms and toxic chemicals — stay tuned for future developments!
Special thanks to Courtney Arthur (NOAA MDP) and Joel Baker (University of Washington Tacoma) for coordinating the workshop.