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Science, Evolution, and Creationism, by the National Academies, focuses on teaching evolution in today's classrooms. Check out the other publications in our online store.
Students at SEA collected tens of thousands of plastic pieces at 6,100 offshore locations. This image shows sargassum, plastic, and a flying fish that was collected from a net.
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Image Courtesy of Sea Education Association

Marine Scientists, Students Find Widespread Floating Plastic Debris in North Atlantic Ocean

A team of researchers from the Sea Education Association (SEA), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and the University of Hawaii (UH) has conducted a study of plastic debris in the ocean based on data collected over 22 years by undergraduate students.

The western North Atlantic Ocean contains high concentrations of plastic debris, comparable to those observed in the region of the Pacific commonly referred to as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch."

More than 64,000 individual plastic pieces were collected at 6,100 locations sampled yearly over the course of the study. A plankton net was used to collect plastic debris as well as biological organisms at each station.

Scientists have been trying to answer the following question: What happens to all that plastic once it gets to the ocean currents? And how does it interact with deep-sea biology?

An interesting finding from this research is that the concentration of floating plastic hasn't increased in the 22 years of this study, even though more plastic has been put into the ocean. Scientists think that the growth of algae and other invertebrates on the plastic changes it over time and causes it to sink.

To learn more about Sea Education Association's mission and programs, please visit their website.

Last modified September 13, 2010 by Becca Hatheway.

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