Trawling for Trash
As the culmination of the annual Downrigging Weekend, the Center for Environment & Society partnered with Sultana Projects and Tall Ships America to invite Dr. Marcus Eriksen, director of the 5 Gyres Institute, to give a talk about plastic pollution in the ocean. Eriksen has traveled the world’s oceans trying to plot and understand the movement and behavior of plastic pollution, which is extremely slow to break down and gets caught in the ocean gyres.There are three steps to solving this issue, and all of them start with people taking more responsibility for what they consume and what they do with their trash.
Before the talk, Eriksen led students, faculty, and staff in a trawl for plastics on the Chester River. The manta trawl followed behind the Washington College research vessel Callinectes as everyone watched and wondered what would appear. Students brought the trawl in and found leaves, an anchovie and some invertebrates, but no visible plastic. That doesn’t mean it’s not there, however, since a vast majority of waterborne plastic is microscopic. To further test the water, Eriksen suggested analyzing the samples under a microscope, testing the sediment and outflows, and repeating the trawling process.