Day 18 S/V Kaisei: Compelling Solutions

21 08 2009

Friday, 21 August 2009
Lat: 38° 23’ N Lon: 140° 54’ W

Dr. Andrea Neal

Dr. Andrea Neal

Our daily life is overwhelmed by the descriptions of threatening global environmental conditions. Climate change, air pollution, limited fresh water supplies, chemical proliferation, and ocean pollution issues all call for our concerted attention. Project Kaisei is heralding the need for solutions, regarding marine debris issues in our oceans.

The issues surrounding global warming are extremely important and extremely complex. We must all live consciously and fight for the environmental health of our planet. While the problems concerning marine debris in our oceans are monumental, the path is clear in terms of the solution. We must stop using the oceans as our dumping ground and we must clean up the marine debris found in areas of accumulation.

Many environmentalists, sailors, scientists, and citizens support Project Kaisei because it is refreshing to have a clear path of action that can show positive results. Project Kaisei is focusing on various marine debris collection prototypes, as well as an educational campaign – ranging from school rooms, to corporate board rooms.

Project Kaisei has sent two teams of scientists, one team aboard the brigantine Kaisei and another aboard the R/V New Horizon, to study ocean contamination by plastics accumulated in the North Pacific Gyre. Their studies include a series of manta trawls, to gather surface samples of seawater and any debris, and deep-water sampling, to measure other aspects of marine-life health.

Dr. Andrea Neal, the principal investigator, has been heading up the various trawls for comparison across different regions of the oceans. Every trawl yielded accumulations of confetti-sized plastic, sometimes larger plastic pieces. Some trawls yielded a little marine life – others no marine life at all. Andrea’s extensive molecular biology expertise and marine biology knowledge are complimented by her commitment to studies regarding the marine debris issues and efforts on bringing together the science team aboard the Kaisei – more of which is featured in the Kaisei Science Journal.

Dr. Mike Gonsior

Dr. Mike Gonsior

Dr. Michael Gonsior, one of the co-principal investigators, has been taking water samples at various depth levels; to determine the extent of dissolved organic matter – including persistent organic pollutants, POPs, which are toxins. These POPs are ingested by all organisms, starting with the smallest building blocks of the food web – which can ultimately lead to our dinner plate. Michael’s impressive educational credentials are complimented by his extensive, practical experiences in the world, which are covered in greater detail in the Kaisei Science Journal.

These are all preliminary findings, which will be analyzed back on shore. The plastics alone are a substantial problem, but the toxic chemicals that have been released into the ocean environment have enormous potential impacts to the food web and the oceanic ecosystem. What further scientific research and testing is needed will be determined after the results are found.

Margy Gassel in the Crow's Nest

Margy Gassel in the Crow's Nest

“Although I was concerned about marine debris, before I got the opportunity to participate in Project Kaisei, the level of destruction (that I now see) which we have imposed on the ocean environment – by our lack of mindfulness when disposing of the ubiquitous plastic products in our daily lives – is truly staggering.”

– Margy Gassel, PhD




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