Posted by: Miriam Goldstein | June 27, 2010

SEAPLEX continues this summer

[cross-posted at Deep Sea News]

The romance of the sea, at least in my mind, is tied to the Age of Sail. This might be because of the inherent beauty of tall ships, or maybe because of a wee bit obsession with Patrick O’Brian’s “Master and Commander” novels (all 20 books, plus the glossary, plus the recipe book…), or maybe because I’ve always wanted to sing a shanty while actually hauling on a rope. This summer, I’ll finally get my chance.

I’ll be sailing from Hawaii to California with Sea Education Association aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans. (I wrote about their plastic debris cruise in the Atlantic a couple weeks ago). The primary mission of the cruise is student education, but they are very kindly letting me come aboard as a visiting researcher. In fact, I type to you from aboard the Seamans at the dock in Honolulu.

I’ll be continuing the research I started last summer on SEAPLEX, further exploring the impact of plastic debris on marine life in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Since we think the highest concentrations of plastic are on the very surface of the ocean, I’ll be studying with surface-dwelling (neustonic) zooplankton to see if they are interacting with the plastic debris. And I’ll be continuing my studies of the fouling community – the animals that grow directly on the plastic.

So far life on the Seamans is much like life on any research vessel preparing for a cruise – there’s a lot of securing and adjusting and last-minute runs to Home Depot. But as soon as we leave the dock on Wednesday morning, I’m going to get to learn the proper way to haul on a rope and scrub the deck. I’m very, very excited.

I don’t know what the internet situation will be, but if possible I will post updates from our journey across the Pacific. You can also follow the ship’s Twitter feed @SEA_Seamans. See you all in four weeks!


  1. Good luck, it will be interesting to see if you discover actual consumption by the surface-dwelling zooplankton. Who analyzes just the plastic material to identify it’s compounds? Can a LD50 be performed yet on the toxicity of these tiny bits of plastic?

    • Currently I am working on learning to ID plastic type, though that does not necessarily connect to toxicity. We can definitely do an LD50 – it’s one of the things that I’m hoping to do in a more controlled environment in the lab this year.

      • Is that really all there is to it because that’d be falbbregastnig.

  2. Very cool stuff. Keep the updates coming.



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