A student from the University of Plymouth is taking to the oceans as part of an international effort to highlight the problem of plastic pollution.
Tristan Muller will be joining Oceans Without Limits, an expedition sailing from his native South Africa across the Indian Ocean this summer.
It aims to carry out research into how the region’s coastlines are being affected by marine debris, and to raise awareness of how communities can prevent its continued spread.
Tristan, who is 21, came to the University two years ago to study BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Oceanography and admits that he had never heard the term microplastics before.
However through his studies, and the growing global profile of the issue, he has decided to get directly involved in studying its impact in the Western Indian Ocean.
He plans to spend six months gathering data in seagrasses throughout the Indian Ocean, assessing whether they play a role in attracting plastic particles to coastlines.
“My dad tells a story that he took me on a shark dive when I was young and from that moment I have always had a passion for the ocean,” Tristan said. “As I’ve got older, I have become more concerned with the threats it is facing and what we can do to protect it and that is why I came to Plymouth to study marine biology. So I am really looking forward to this expedition, and it is great that dad is also going to be such a key part of it.”
The Ocean Without Limits concept was developed by Gert Muller, a commercial oil rig diver, and his close mate Mark Gibson, a former round-the-world yachtsman. Joining as crew is Michael Mackenzie, a saturation diver and world champion skydiver.
They will set sail from Cape Town in July on the 80ft Acharne, with their voyage scheduled to take in the island nations of Madagascar, the Seychelles, British Indian Ocean Territories and the Maldives.
During the voyage Tristan will collect sediment samples from areas of seagrass and adjacent seabed sediment, and the crew will be posting regular videos and blogs throughout their trip. He added:
“The Indian Ocean is a special place but like everywhere, it is being impacted by plastic pollution. To assess the scale of that problem, and any factors that might be contributing to it, is crucial which is why this mission. But it will also be amazing to meet people living in these areas, and to see how we can work with them to lessen their impact on the coastal regions they all rely on.”