Events /

Ocean Plastics

September 14 - 30, 2020

We're kicking off the 2020/21 school year with a theme of ocean plastic for the month of September, hosting scientists, explorers, artists, advocates and organizations documenting, researching and developing innovative solutions to tackle this global issue. We have 9.2 billion tons of plastic on our planet of which 6.9 billion tons have become waste. We are filling the bodies of water on our planet with plastic, a new estimate shows 11 million tons of plastic entering the ocean each year, surely increasing with all the disposable PPE we've been using. How long does it take for plastic to completely biodegrade? Estimates range from 450 years to never. Wave action and the sun cause plastic to breakdown into smaller pieces called microplastics, which are ingested by marine life, carrying toxins that accumulate through the food chain and into our bodies. A few more facts to illustrate the issue:

More than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are already floating in our ocean | Over a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed by plastic trash each year | Around the world, over a million plastic bottles are sold every minute | 10% of plastic waste in our ocean is discarded fishing gear

Photo Credit for Surfer in Plastic: Zak Noyle | https://www.zaknoyle.com/

The Google Hangouts:

September 15, 2020

9:00 am eastern time

Martina was born on the coast of the Adriatic Sea and developed an interest in ocean protection as a young scuba diver when she noticed pollution amid grazing fish on a trash-strewn reef. She received the National Geographic and Sky Ocean Rescue Scholarship, which supported her research on microplastics and chemical contamination in the Adriatic Sea. With this project, she hopes to warn people of the real damages that marine litter can have on the planet and the human community. She is currently studying how microplastics can affect suspension feeders as a postdoc at the University of Connecticut.

September 15, 2020

2:00 pm eastern time

Plastic is everywhere and incredibly valuable to humans… but it should not be disposable. More than 8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans every year – that is the same as one dump truck a minute. Moreover, there is something very simple we can all do every day to help reduce the plastic problem. Join an Ocean Wise Educator at the Vancouver Aquarium on brainstorming how to tackle the problems!

September 16, 2020

9:00 am eastern time

Elitza is a marine biologist focusing on saving large ocean creatures - megafauna- from extinction. Besides learning about the lives of these giants, she's particularly interested in how manta rays and whale sharks may be harmed by ingesting small pieces of plastic - microplastic. Elitza's a PhD student at Murdoch University, Western Australia and a lead researcher with the Marine Megafauna Foundation. She hopes to inspire people of all ages to consider how they can become better marine stewards, to love and care for the ocean and its creatures. For more info on her project and work please visit: https://www.facebook.com/microplasticsmegafauna/

September 17, 2020

2:00 pm eastern time

Debris Tracker is a global citizen science tool used to monitor and record litter in an open-access database. Every day, educational, non-profit, and scientific organizations and dedicated citizen scientists from all around the world record data on inland and marine debris with the app, resulting in over 2.5 million items tracked to date. As a Research Engineer at the University of Georgia New Materials Institute and the Citizen Science Director of Marine Debris Tracker, Kathryn Youngblood has worked with the Jambeck Research Group for over five years studying upstream solutions to ocean plastic pollution. In 2019, she traveled along the Ganges river as a member of National Geographic's Sea to Source expedition, using Debris Tracker to study the litter leakage of plastic waste in 10 communities along the river. You can start your own citizen science litter expedition today by downloading the free Marine Debris Tracker app!

September 21, 2020

10:00 am eastern time

Emily Penn is an oceans advocate, skipper and artist; a graduate of Cambridge University with a degree in Architecture. She has organised the largest ever community-led waste cleanup from a tiny Tongan island, trawled for micro plastics on a voyage through the Arctic Northwest Passage, rounded the planet on the record-breaking biofuelled boat Earthrace, and worked on a sailing cargo ship trading western supplies for coconuts. Emily splits her time between running eXXpedition - a series of all female voyages which focus on the relationship between plastics and toxics and female health. Prior to this, Emily co-founded Pangaea Explorations, to enable scientists, filmmakers and everyday people gain access to the most remote parts of our planet; collecting data on global issues and along the way discovered previously unknown oceanic gyres – huge areas of plastic pollution accumulation. Emily was honoured with the Fitzroy Award at the 2016 Ocean Awards and is also the youngest and only female recipient of both the Yachtmaster of the Year, awarded by HRH Princess Royal, and the Seamaster of the Year award.

September 23, 2020

1:00 pm eastern time

Inspired by the legacy of his grandfather of Jacques Cousteau, Philippe is an multi Emmy-Nominated TV host and producer as well as an author, speaker, and social entrepreneur. His conservation efforts are focused on solving global social and environmental problems. In 2004 he founded EarthEcho International dedicated to inspiring youth to act now for a sustainable planet. With a over ten years in operation, EarthEcho has established itself as a leading youth environmental education organization.

September 24, 2020

9:00 am eastern time

eXXpedition runs pioneering all-female sailing research expeditions to investigate the causes of and solutions to ocean plastic pollution. ‘Round the World’ covers over 38,000 nautical miles, including 4 of the oceans plastic accumulation zones (gyres). Split into 30 voyage legs, this will enable 300 women to go to sea as hands-on crew, participate in scientific research and solutions-based thinking.

Dr. Winnie Courtene-Jones is a marine scientist specialising in ocean plastic pollution, and has researched this topic in a variety of environments from coasts to some of the remotest parts of the deep sea. Winnie leads the eXXpedition Round the World science and when not sailing she is based at the University of Plymouth, UK.

Sally Earthrowl is keen environmentalist, adventurer and Geography teacher. Living and teaching in Bali, Indonesia, Sally witnessed first-hand the devastating impacts of plastic pollution and the power of passionate people who want to make a difference. In 2018 she joined eXXpedition, sailing and carrying out scientific research into plastic pollution in the North Pacific Gyre. As Mission Leader, Sally is mostly found out at sea leading voyages and outreach events across the world.

September 28, 2020

10:00 am eastern time

David de Rothschild's adventurous spirit, passion, and commitment to action have sent him to some of the world's most remote and fragile regions in order to bring widespread media attention and, moreover, solutions to urgent global environmental issues. In the summer of 2010, de Rothschild embarked on his most challenging and high-profile adventure yet, the Plastiki. The Plastiki set sail on an ocean adventure over 8,000 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Sydney. The Plastiki was no ordinary vessel. The 60-foot catamaran was built from approximately 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and a unique recyclable technology called Seretex. This distinctive, one-of-a-kind construction demonstrated that the list of solutions available is far greater than the list of problems. The Plastiki created a platform to fuel conversation and shift public thinking and perception from plastic as the enemy to plastic becoming part of the solution. The mission: to beat waste. The adventure set the stage for a historic expedition and delivered a spectacular global "message in a bottle."

September 28, 2020

1:00 pm eastern time

Join Daniella from Think Beyond Plastic as she shares some innovative solutions to the global plastic pollution problem.

Plastic pollution is an economic, environmental, human health and aesthetic problem posing a multi-dimensional challenge to humanity, often compared to climate change in terms of impact, breadth and complexity. Plastic pollution is also an immense innovation opportunity. Plastic as a material is valuable, important and versatile; it offers multiple benefits to consumers and manufacturers and for the most part, is without viable alternatives. Consumption has grown 20X times since the 60-ies (1.5 metric tonnes in 1964 to 311 metric tonnes in 2014), and will likely triple by 2050. The negative externalities associated with this growth are staggering – plastic production will reach almost 20% of the global oil production; it will use 15% of the global carbon budget and is projected to surpass the airline industry’s use of petroleum. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to society and will undoubtedly shift how we think about plastic waste, plastic packaging and human health issues. The dynamics of the eco-system are shifting, and the outcomes are yet unclear. This is a time for change and the innovators are leading the way with new materials, new product delivery systems and new green chemicals.

September 28, 2020

2:00 pm eastern time

Join Dwight Owens of Ocean Networks Canada as he explores the problem of and solutions for trash in our oceans! Dwight has over 25 years’ experience in design and development of rich media and interactive education. Much of this work has been science-related. Since joining Ocean Networks Canada in 2008, Dwight has been immersed in the fascinating world of ocean sciences, supporting communications, outreach, and engagement with geophysicists, marine biologists, oceanographers, seismologists and acousticians.

September 29, 2020

11:00 am eastern time

Sara is a highly acclaimed National Geographic photographer who documented a female-led team of international scientists and engineers on the Sea to Source: Ganges expedition. In 2019 they set out on two expeditions with the goal of studying plastic pollution in one of the world’s most iconic waterways — the Ganges River. Sara documented the waste they tracked, and the communities they encountered in Bangladesh and India.

Sara Hylton is an award-winning Canadian freelance photographer covering women, conflict, and migration internationally. Her principal medium is the portrait; resilience, humanity, and the quiet beauty in everyday life guides her work and the stories she covers. She has worked for National Geographic, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Harper's Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian Magazine, Bloomberg News, Vogue Magazine, the Financial Times Magazine, the Globe and Mail, Refinery 29, and Al Jazeera among others.

September 29, 2020

1:00 pm eastern time

Join Dr. Tierney Thys to learn more about sustainable textiles and how work and attention in this sphere can help support small industries and indigenous communities making natural Fiber products, and ensuring less plastics are entering our ocean. Tierney is a National Geographic Explorer, marine biologist, Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences and an independent filmmaker. She serves on the board of Think Beyond Plastic (TBP)—a global leader in advancing solutions to plastic pollution through innovation and entrepreneurship. TBP is developing the ecosystem for bio-based bio-benign materials, new packaging design, manufacturing processes, consumer and business products. After receiving her PhD studying biomechanics, Dr. Thys served for 10 years as Director of Research at Sea Studios Foundation—producers of the award-winning six-part PBS documentary series Strange Days on Planet Earth. This series, which focused on global environmental challenges including climate change, overfishing and plastic pollution, whetted her desire to find solutions. Her current research projects include tracking marine megafauna with satellite tags to reduce bycatch, quantifying the role nature plays in human well-being and environmental decision-making through neuroimaging, providing nature to nature-deprived populations specifically the incarcerated and producing a narrative film on long term solutions to plastic pollution.

September 30, 2020

10:00 am eastern time

Join Anna for a live dissection of a seabird to see if we find plastic in its stomach. Her research examines "new" contaminants like water repellant compounds compared to "legacy" pollutants like flame retardants in seabird tissue and ocean water, to better figure out how seabirds are accumulating these pollutants. She also characterizes plastic ingestion in seabirds to better figure out how plastics accumulate in birds. She is the managing editor of oceanbites.org and constantly seeks to spread awareness about plastic and chemical pollution in the oceans.

September 30, 2020

12:00 pm eastern time

Join Nicole Harris, education specialist at Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, as we dive in and break down the issue of plastics in the ocean. We will explore creative ways communities are working together to better understand and combat this global issue, from community stewardship and student monitoring, to innovative thinking and technologies.

September 30, 2020

2:00 pm eastern time

Lillygol is a National Geographic Explorer and Multimedia Storyteller at the intersection of science, systems, and people. Her work includes documenting National Geographic’s first women-led Sea to Source Ganges River Plastics Expedition, and Taiwan's waste management system and plastics recycling as a Fulbright - National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow. With her stories, Lillygol aims to make science accessible to the greater public and spark the realization that every choice we make affects the environment. Using infographics, music videos, maps, and photo essays to promote environmental education, she hopes to transform people’s perceptions of trash from something disposable to something valuable. An active spokesperson for National Geographic’s global Planet or Plastic? campaign, in late 2020 Lillygol will build one of the first visual databases of circular economy initiatives in Taiwan as a part of a National Geographic Early Career Storytelling grant.

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