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Workshop Highlights Role of Citizen Science in Battling Microplastics

October 11
ESF Gateway Center

The hazards presented by microplastics in waterways - and the steps citizen scientists can take to help solve the problem - was the focus of a workshop at ESF October 11.

Microplastics are a cause for concern both locally, in bodies of water throughout upstate New York, and globally, as they affect the well-being of marine life and the health of the planet's oceans. Participants learned about proper sampling techniques and then had a chance to practice them during a hands-on training session.

Highlighting the event, called "Detecting Microplastics in Waterways with Citizen Science," was a keynote speech by Dr. Marcus Ericksen, researcher and activist who is a founder of the 5 Gyres Institute. ("Gyres" refers to the "garbage patches" in the oceans and in numerous seas and lakes.) Ericksen is known internationally for his efforts to quantify the problem of plastics in our oceans. He spoke at 1 p.m. in the Gateway Center on the ESF campus.

The workshop also brought U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck and other speakers to campus to help inform citizen scientists about:

  • research that has been conducted to date
  • the importance of standardizing sampling and analytical methodologies
  • future research needs
  • how organizations aggregating citizen science efforts can assist in filling research gaps

Participants were introduced to preferred methods of microplastics sampling and then performed actual sampling to obtain tangible experience. The training session was held in the Gateway Center.

Environmental Finance Center

Other speakers that attended were Abby Barrows of Adventure Scientists, Dr. Sherri Mason of SUNY Fredonia, and Margaret Murphy and Dr. Nick Anastas of the EPA.

The Syracuse University Environmental Finance Center co-hosted the workshop. It was co-sponsored by the EPA Region 2 Trash Free Water and Citizen Science Programs.