In two years of research, ASC has found microplastics around the world, in some of the most remote oceans. These plastic particles attract toxins like DDT and BPA, and then enter the food chain when ingested by aquatic life. With this information, ASC recently expanded the project to freshwater, because data in that field is lacking. A 2015 report compiled by the GESAMP called microplastic pollution “an emerging issue of international concern.” Microplastics are particles of plastic less than 5mm in size, which have been shown to be highly prevalent in marine environments (Cole et al., 2011). Microplastic particles can act as a mechanism for the transfer of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) into marine organisms (Zarfl and Matthies, 2010) and in turn are harmful to the marine food web and may increase public exposure to toxins (Wright et al., 2013; Chua et al., 2014). It is believed that microplastics are doing similar harm in freshwater environments, but there is a need for further scientific exploration.
ASC has four teams of Mississippi River paddlers contributing to the ASC Microplastics Project this summer! Emily Stifler Wolfe of ASC says, "What a cool opportunity to gather a really valuable dataset that can be used to leverage a reduction in plastic pollution." Emily also offered, "You are the ideal adventurer for ASC: You're competent in the outdoors, you're on an extended expedition on which you'll be able to gather otherwise unobtainable data, and you're creative, so you can help us spread the word about our work." I am super happy to be contributing to this effort, and look forward to volunteering my time to write the paper that will accompany all this freshwater microplastics data collection.
Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to mobilize the outdoor community to gather and share targeted scientific data, catalyzing conservation efforts worldwide. A trained wildlife technician and notable explorer, named “Adventurer of the Year” in 2008 by National Geographic, Gregg Treinish established ASC in 2011 to offer outdoor adventurers a way to help protect the natural world they loved. Since its foundation, ASC has sent thousands of athletes to collect data for hundreds of scientists working on seven continents and in all five oceans. These partnerships have led to the discovery of more than a dozen new species, provided key information to guide climate change decisions, and helped protect threatened wildlife habitat. In total, ASC has saved the conservation community millions of dollars by mobilizing volunteers, while also providing a unique learning and engagement experience for project participants. Our work has been featured in more than 100 media outlets. In the year 2015, ASC has already saved the conservation community 3005 days of work through the efforts of its extensive volunteer network.