Posts Tagged ‘marine extension’

Microplastics article in Savannah Morning News

February 20, 2017
Students from Pierce County Middle School sort through the results of a trawl as part of an education program at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium.

Students from Pierce County Middle School sort through the results of a trawl as part of an education program at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium.

Reporter Mary Landers wrote a very nice article about Dr. Jay Brandes’s research into microplastic and microfiber pollution on the Georgia coast.

http://savannahnow.com/news/2017-02-19/skidaway-researchers-track-plastic-fibers-coastal-food-chain

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Scientists track microplastic pollution on the Georgia coast

January 31, 2017

In recent years, the public has become attuned to the problem of trash in the ocean, especially plastic, as images of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have spread through media and the Internet. Now, University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Jay Brandes is leading a team investigating another issue closer to home on the Georgia coast: microplastics.

Jay Brandes

Jay Brandes

These are tiny pieces of plastic—smaller than  five millimeters, or about a fifth of an inch—that have either been manufactured small or have broken down from larger pieces. They can be found in our beaches, water and in the digestive systems of aquatic wildlife.

“Five millimeters is still something you can see with the naked eye, but if you are out at the beach you aren’t going to pick up on it easily,” Brandes said. “So we say anything smaller than 5 millimeters is considered a microplastic.”

A few pieces of microplastic collected from the Georgia coast.

A few pieces of microplastic collected from the Georgia coast.

 

Funded by Georgia Sea Grant, Brandes and UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant educator Dodie Sanders are in the first year of a two-year study to ascertain the extent of microplastic pollution in Georga’s coastal waters.

“Right now we are just trying to get an idea if there is a problem, and if there is, how prevalent it is,” Brandes said.

Microplastics come from several sources. Beginning in 1972, cosmetics manufacturers started adding plastic microbeads to exfoliating body washes and facial scrubs, which often pass freely through water treatment plants. When scientists reported finding these microbeads in rivers, lakes and oceans, it prompted a worldwide discussion on the issue. In 2015, Congress enacted legislation requiring the cosmetics industry to remove microbeads from rinse-off cosmetics by July of this year.

The sun also contributes to the production of microplastics. Plastic exposed to sunlight eventually fades, becomes brittle and breaks down into smaller pieces.

“All of us have probably seen a Styrofoam cup break down and the little beads come out,” Brandes said.  “So there is the physical breakdown of the plastics into smaller and smaller pieces as they grind against each other and sand grains.”

To assess the extent of microplastic pollution on the Georgia coast, the research team makes use of the regular trawls conducted by UGA Marine Education and Aquarium staff. They collect the fish, shrimp, squid and other animals captured in the trawl and take them back to a laboratory where they will dissect them and analyze the contents of their gut.

Students from Pierce County Middle School sort through the results of a trawl as part of an education program at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium.

Students from Pierce County Middle School sort through the results of a trawl as part of an education program at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium.

“The first thing we have to do is to subject the gut contents to some extremely harsh chemicals to destroy the flesh and leave us mostly with the plastics,” Brandes said. “When dissecting even a small fish, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack if you don’t get rid of all the other stuff.”

What is left is examined under a microscope and the plastic pieces identified and counted. The researchers have already found some surprises. Everywhere they look, whether it is beach sand or the contents of a fish’s stomach, they are seeing microfibers, extremely fine synthetic fiber used to create textiles.

According to Brandes, microfibers are pervasive—so much so that when the researchers take samples to the laboratory they have to take special measures to prevent contamination of their samples from microfibers floating in the air. It is not clear, however, if the microfibers are causing any harm to the marine organisms that ingest them.

“We are not finding fish with their stomachs packed with microfibers,” Brandes said. “It’s hard to tell if they are causing any real problems.”

The project also has an educational component. Brandes has taught workshops in which he takes  groups of K-12 teachers to Tybee Island to collect sand and return it to the laboratory for microscopic analysis. He says the teachers are usually shocked with what they see.

“Hey, you thought that sand was clean, and from a tourist standpoint it is,” he said. “But there is still stuff in there and then you start talking about where it came from and what kinds of effects it may have.”

The project is expected to be completed and the results published by early 2018.

Skidaway Marine Science Day 2016 canceled

October 18, 2016

The University of Georgia’s Skidaway Marine Science Day, scheduled for Oct. 22, has been canceled.

The UGA Aquarium reopened over the weekend, however the Jay Wolf Nature Trail remains closed as crews continue to remove debris brought on by Hurricane Matthew.

Both Clark Alexander, interim director of UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, and Mark Risse, director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, had hoped to reschedule the event, but no other date was available this fall.

“We are upset we are not able to offer this great event this year,” Alexander said. “However, we will be back bigger and stronger in 2017.”

Skidaway Marine Science Day has been an annual event on the Skidaway campus since 2001. The free, family-oriented program is presented jointly by the UGA Skidaway Institute, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

Skidaway microplastics study get’s front-page coverage

January 27, 2016
Samples of microplastic particles collected off the Georgia coast

Samples of microplastic particles collected off the Georgia coast

A “just-starting” research project into the extent of microplastics pollution on the Georgia coast was featured on the front page of this morning’s Savannah Morning News. Hat’s off to Skidaway Institute’s Jay Brandes and UGA Marine Extension’s Dodie Sanders.

http://savannahnow.com/news/2016-01-26/skidaway-researchers-look-plastics-local-shrimp-fish

Jay Brandes interviewed on GPB

January 14, 2016

Skidaway Institute professor Jay Brandes was interviewed on Georgia Public Broadcasting regarding the recent move to ban microbeads and his upcoming project on microplastic pollution on the Georgia coast.

http://www.gpb.org/news/2016/01/13/microbeads-banned-plastic-remains-threat-oceans

Black Gill cruise video on YouTube

December 14, 2015

It’s been a month and a half since we completed the fall Black Gill research cruise, but we’re finally getting around to posting a video on the day. Click on the photo to view the video on YouTube.

Shrimp with Black Gill.

Shrimp with Black Gill.

 

UGA researchers study microplastics on Georgia coast

December 3, 2015

Images such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have attracted much attention to the problem of large-size marine debris, but another serious issue has garnered less visibility—marine microplastics. University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientists Jay Brandes and Thais Bittar and UGA Marine Extension educator Dodie Sanders are hoping to change that and have received funding from Georgia Sea Grant to examine the extent of the microplastics problem along the Georgia coast.

Samples of microplastic particles collected off the Georgia coast

Samples of microplastic particles collected off the Georgia coast

Microplastics are particles smaller than five millimeters in size (about one fifth of an inch). They have many sources, from manufactured particles like microbeads used in cosmetics and skin cleaning creams to plastic pieces formed from the breakdown of larger debris. Microplastics are often consumed by marine organisms and may cause them significant harm. Until now, there has been no study on the possible extent of microplastic pollution in Georgia estuarine waters and the organisms that live there.

The project has three primary goals: The researchers will quantify the amount of plastics found in the gut contents of shellfish, fish and shrimp; determine the types of plastic pollution ingested by Georgia estuarine organisms; and educate stakeholders, the public, educators and their students about the issue of microplastic pollution.

The research team will collect marine organisms through the trawls routinely conducted by UGA Marine Extension and will separate, identify and measure the microplastics they find in the fish. As a part of its regular K-12 educational programs, Marine Extension conducts nearly 60 trawls annually and collects fish, shrimp and other organisms to assess the composition and health of local food webs.

“With this information, we expect to get a pretty good idea of how serious the microplastics problem is here in Georgia,” Brandes said.

The team will integrate the entire process into the UGA Marine Extension’s ongoing education programs. They will involve regional educators and their students in both sampling and counting efforts as part of overall marine debris educational programs.

Teachers participating in a summer workshop sift through the sand of Tybee Island in search of microplastic particles.

Teachers participating in a summer workshop sift through the sand of Tybee Island in search of microplastic particles.

The trawls will be conducted with the assistance of visiting school groups, composed of roughly 20 students each. During the trawls, the various species will be identified and counted by the students.  In addition, discussions of microplastic pollution and the potential of ingestion by marine life will be incorporated into the year-round education programs at Marine Extension, such as a fish dissection lab, the invertebrate lab and the plankton lab.

The researchers also plan to enhance an existing marine debris exhibit in the UGA Aquarium by adding a microplastic component.

The UGA Aquarium, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant are all part of the university’s Office of Public Service and Outreach.

Skidaway Marine Science Day video on YouTube

December 1, 2015

Our annual campus-wide open house event, Skidaway Marine Science Day, was held on Saturday, October 24. Here is a a quick look at the fun and activities.

UGA Skidaway Institute produces informational video on black gill in Georgia shrimp

August 10, 2015

UGA study finds high marine debris, need for standardized reporting along Georgia coast

February 3, 2015

Skidaway Island, Ga. – University of Georgia researchers are hoping to find a consistent way to record the marine debris—particularly pieces of plastic—crowding Georgia’s beaches as part of an effort to find a solution for the growing problem.

Marine debris has been washing up on Georgia beaches and uninhabited islands for years. Combatting the issue starts with figuring out how big it is, and a new two-part study from the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and Marine Extension published online in the Marine Pollution Bulletin finds that marine debris reporting can improve if it becomes standardized.

The problem right now is this: A volunteer group goes out and records the weight or volume of the marine debris collected. However, volunteers don’t often record the specific square feet measured or the contents of the debris. Due to a lack of report standardization, researchers often can’t compare the marine debris, especially plastic fragments, reported by different groups.

A sample of marine debris collected along the Georgia coast sits on a table at the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

A sample of marine debris collected along the Georgia coast sits on a table at the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

“We’ve seen plastic usage go up dramatically,” said study co-author Dodie Sanders, a marine educator and outreach coordinator for UGA Marine Extension, a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach. “It’s an important 21st century global issue. We need to learn more to better understand the issues of marine debris.”

The study’s lead author Richard F. Lee, professor emeritus with the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, agrees.

“Plastic debris is created on land and then it goes into rivers, flows into the ocean and washes up on land,” he said. “We’ve found that plastic debris ends up not only on populated beaches, but on inaccessible islands as well. We’ve found plastic everywhere on the coast.”

The first part of the study gathered debris from 20 sites along Georgia’s coast, including Tybee, Cumberland and Ossabaw islands. The debris was reported from volunteer organizations like Clean Coast, which hold monthly beach and marsh cleanups in Georgia.

Participants in a July 2014 teacher's workshop focusing on marine debris sift through the sands of Tybee Island in search of microplastic particles.

Participants in a July 2014 teacher’s workshop focusing on marine debris sift through the sands of Tybee Island in search of microplastic particles.

“The volunteer groups reported the weight of the debris, though we didn’t know the exact amount of plastic,” Lee said. “Based off the volunteer information we received, we did a follow-up study to more precisely measure the marine debris in a fixed location and period of time.”

The total collected debris ranged from 180 to 1,000 kilograms. The levels of plastic debris differed at each site over the course of the study, though plastic was consistently among the mix. Found plastic included plastic bottles, wrappers, food utensils and fragments of fishing gear.

Sanders spearheaded the second part of the study, where she and students collected plastic debris from Skidaway and Wassaw islands over a period of two years.

“While Dr. Lee did data analysis, I did some of the field work,” Sanders said. “We picked the two islands in the second part of the study because they were accessible sites where Marine Extension often takes students for marine education.”

For the fieldwork, Sanders and students visited the islands each month. They took inventory of what kinds of plastics were on specific areas of the coast.

“On about a monthly basis, I would take students to learn about debris and tally all the items on the islands,” Sanders said. “We took areas of 200 meters by 40 meters and recorded the items found. We also used GPS units to mark what areas we had done.”

The students, many of them in middle and high school, came from all over Georgia to assist. As part of Marine Extension, Sanders regularly teaches visiting students about marine life. When students volunteered to clean up, she tried to emphasize the issues surrounding debris.

“The bulk of the plastic comes from land,” Sanders said. “When people think of marine debris, they think of the ocean. I try to emphasize watershed concepts—what happens upstream ultimately gets downstream.”

“It can take years for plastic to degrade,” Lee said, adding, “80 percent of the plastic found at Wassaw turned out to be fragments. The fragments then spread and can have a number of environmental effects.”

Sanders says that since plastic debris is everywhere on the coast, it has to be addressed and reported efficiently to reduce its effects.

“There are proactive and reactive approaches to the issues of marine debris, and both are important,” she said. “We’ve been reactive so far by picking up debris. The proactive approach is our role in educating the public and researching the negative impacts of marine debris.”

The study was supported by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Incentive Grant, NOAA Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative and the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

The full article on “The amount and accumulation rate of plastic debris on marshes and beaches on the Georgia coast” is available at www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X14008200#.