Yes, they took me to the middle of the Pacific Ocean in the summer of 2011, but since then they’ve also let me hang out at their office and lab and taught me a ton about plastic pollution science and education. As I wrap up another session of fieldwork with the Algalita Marine Research Institute, I thought I’d share some of the most memorable moments from the past year.
1. Heathwood Hall Visit
Being part of the team leading a week of student research at the lab helped me realize just how much I’ve learned about the science of plastic in the ocean. I even got to go out sample collecting on the Alguita with Captain Moore and help make this awesome video documenting the research process. The students insisted on including my brief, yet highly embarrassing appearance circa 1:00. And now I know exactly how ridiculous I look when teaching.
From landfill tours to checking trash booms on local rivers and watching Katie rescue runaway 6-pack rings from the marina behind the office (while waiting for the Endeavour flyover), I’ve learned a ton about how plastic moves through the local watershed. Like the little duck, plastic continues to sneak past barriers and head out to sea. Not only do I now have plastic-vision super powers (I see it EVERYWHERE), I have developed a habit of bringing garbage home: there’s a pretty decent collection of plastic curiosities growing on my shelf.
3. Youth Summit at the Google Office
Inspired by people half my age twice as articulate, I found my cynical academic-self challenged make peace with optimism. Maybe reusable bags, straws and sporks really do lead to something bigger, especially in the hands of youth upset about the global problems they’ve inherited. I learned a thing or two about public speaking (no crossed arms, tell a story), and got to eat pizza cooked by a dragon before helping to scrub google’s shiny counters free of flour.
The big events are easy to highlight, but it’s really all the little everyday things that make them and my research possible. Like microplastics at sea, the things that matter are not always the most photogenic. A giant north pacific subtropical gyre-sized thank you to Algalita for always, always making me feel so welcome. And don’t worry, I’ll be back for more adventures!