Local Tools Being Used to Study Ocean Pollution on 2-Year Trip Around the World

Researchers on the two-year "eXXpedition" trip are using a spectrometer from PerkinElmer, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, to analyze microplastics

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An all women research team is right now sailing around the world, studying ocean pollution with tools developed in New England.

The two-year “eXXpedition” trip left from England last October, and is currently headed for Panama.

Along the way scientists are searching the oceans for microplastics, which are tiny pieces of trash often hard to spot from the deck of a ship.

The researchers want to know where those microplastics are coming from. They analyze the samples they collect using a spectrometer from Waltham-based PerkinElmer.

“It’s really a portable and amazing device that allows us to analyze microplastics right there and then on the ocean, so we pull them up and put them straight on and work out what kind of plastic we’re finding,” explains Dr. Winnie Courtene-Jones.

She emphasized that the real value of the device is that it can be used in the field, not just in a more stable lab environment.

So far, during the voyage across the Atlantic, researchers say most of the microplastics they’ve studied come from food containers. That includes take-away containers from restaurants, for example. 

Given the fast, consumer lifestyle that’s prevalent in both the United States, and Europe, that isn’t surprising.

Still, the results can be used to educate both the public, and government, about possible ways to cut down on that type of waste.

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