Marine biologist Miriam Goldstein never thought about how lot counting would get in her future aquatic career – that is, until she started investigating exactly how much plastic debris was actually in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. But with end 6,000 surface miles of s – an area much more than double the size of the USA – Miriam soon found she remained in for a lot of of fast calculations.

“Nobody ever before told me that becoming a naval biologist would involve spending four years figuring out exactly how to count. Because, seriously, how tough can count be?” she writes. “Well, it turns out, once you’re do the efforts to count tiny piece of plastic in the ocean, it gets facility really fast.”


A quadrat supplied to assist in the counting process. Photo via Deepseanews.com

As documented in her blog post on Deep Sea News, her research primarily entailed towing one net follow me the ocean surface, another net underwater, and visually counting the quantity of plastic floating on the surface. Yet things became even more complex when she i found it batches the data from the same area or similar time spans to be exceedingly variant.

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“The quantity of trash to be hugely variable. Tows take away right next to each other, or take away in approximately the same place a year apart, had really different quantities of plastic.”

Why? Wind play a big factor in determining data, an especially given her study was often reliant on intuitive observations. Thus, on public days v choppy seas, the plastics she hoped to counting were swirling in flurries in ~ the surface.


Miriam has actually trouble counting zooplankton and plastics ~ above this choppy day. Picture via Deepseanews.com

Her research also discovered a few surprising facts, such together the huge amount the zooplankton top top the ocean surface – which means that merely filtering out plastic from ocean water will likewise filter the end a large portion of sea life. This makes finding a systems to the plastic problem much more difficult, but likewise ensures that remediation tactics will not cause damage an ext than they settle (as in keeping with the Open ocean Cleanup Guidelines).

In the meantime, her finest tip to reducing oceanic plastic garbage is prevention. Through the an obstacle witnessed in do the efforts to obtain accurate data, Miriam writes that proposing a clean up will certainly be largely redundant uneven we adjust the way we dispose of ours waste first, ensuring the it doesn’t finish up ~ above the ocean surface rather of in recycling bins or legal landfill.

You deserve to read more about her research study in both this blog post and her academic essay.

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To see what other careers show off mathematics, animals and the environment, inspect out our careers page and also take a peek at the Zoo Keeper or steed Studies stories, or maybe also the Meteorologist profile.