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Checking in on microplastics research from Nov. 7

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Workshop attendees getting briefed on the manta-net during a quick trip on the water to sample for microplastics in Commencement Bay Photo Credit: Sherry Lippiatt

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.

NOAA MDP's Courtney Arthur during Risk Assessment Break-out at SETAC Photo Credit: Sherry Lippiatt

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.


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 “Checking in on microplastics research from Nov. 7

  1. I was hoping to receive information about similar workshops. I live and work on Marrowstone Island, north of the Seattle – Tacoma area discussed, or explored in this posting………..much of my morning and evening beach time is spent removing King and Pierce County debris from the eastern shore of Marrowstone. It also settles as microplastic in the accretion sections of beach such as Marrowstone Point where, on my return from Midway a year and a half ago, I started a project to help kids get involved in plastic removal from watersheds and our ocean.

    Please refer to some of my blog posts at which I point a finger at Seattle, especially, for their lack of recycling bottle caps, one of the largest contributors to microplastic debris in the Salish Sea and the Pacific. Okay, straws from the more than 2 dozen cruise ships home ported in Seattle also contribute greatly, but I suspect they end up as micro on more distant shores. Lighters too…….

    You might find this of interest. The other day, I picked up a plastic coated sign announcing a Commencement Bay Tug boat open house of some sort……..These kinds of “tagged’ pieces show up all the time, helping me to understand where trash comes from……much like the hundreds of Penn Cove Mussell discs that wash up after every south wind. My rough estimate is that at least one thousand of these black plastic discs float out of Hood Canal alone, each year.

    Have a Great Apple Cup Weekend!

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