University teams up with eXXpedition to tackle the plastics in our oceans

(c) eXXpedition_Jen Russell- North Pacific leg 1 Hawaii to Vancouver 1393

The University of Plymouth and pioneering sailing and science organisation eXXpedition are joining forces to conduct new and innovative research into the impact plastic pollution is having on our oceans.

They will work together to coordinate and conduct scientific experiments as part of eXXpedition’s Round the World 2019–2021 voyage, which will involve 300 women sailing more than 38,000 nautical miles over the space of two years.

Setting off from Plymouth in October 2019, it will journey to some of the most important and diverse marine environments on the planet, collecting samples to build a comprehensive picture of the state of our seas.

There will also be a wider citizen science and outreach programme, encouraging people all over the world to contribute towards a greater understanding of this global issue.

The initial three-year partnership is being made possible through funding from eXXpedition to the University’s International Marine Litter Research Unit.

It, in turn, is currently recruiting for a Science Lead who will set the agenda for the voyage’s scientific activities provide dedicated training for members of its crew and oversee the analysis of its results.

Professor Richard Thompson OBE, Head of the International Marine Litter Research Unit, said:

“In recent years, tackling the plastics in our oceans has become one of our most high profile environmental challenges. It is crucial that we use innovative and informed means to develop greater understanding of the issue’s global scale, and to identify ways to address it. This collaboration will undoubtedly help achieve that, and we are delighted to be working with eXXpedition to generate new knowledge and interest in this important area.”

Emily Penn, Mission Director of eXXpedition, added:

“We're delighted to collaborate with the University of Plymouth on our Round the World science programme. The plastic pollution challenge our ocean faces is a global one and it will take an inspired army of passionate, skilled and experienced people to tackle it. We're excited for our 300 expedition participants to work together with scientists from such a prestigious institute to better understand the environmental and human health impact of plastics and toxics, and to use this information to help pinpoint upstream solutions.”

eXXpedition is a Community Interest Company that specialises in all-women sailing trips with a focus on highlighting the devastating impact single-use plastic is having on our planet’s oceans, ecosystems and on human health. It has run expeditions all over the world, and previous research has highlighted the endemic nature of microplastics within our ocean environments globally and the increasing potential impact they have on human health.

The two organisations have worked together in the past with eXXpedition’s 2017 Round Britain voyage setting sail from the University’s Marine Station. Students have also participated in previous voyages, with BSc (Hons) Marine Biology student Megan Ross joining the 2017 voyage and Research Fellow Imogen Napper working as lead scientist on a leg of eXXpedition North Pacific 2018.

Voyages highlighting plastic pollution

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All images (C) eXXpedition

International Marine Litter Research Unit

Marine litter is a global environmental problem with items of debris now contaminating habitats from the poles to the equator, from the sea surface to the deep sea.

Furthering our understanding of litter on the environment and defining solutions

Find out more about the International Marine Litter Research Unit