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Workshop Highlights Role of Citizen Science in Battling Microplastics

ESF event Oct. 11 offers hands-on training, keynote by researcher Marcus Ericksen

The hazards presented by microplastics in waterways — and the steps citizen scientists can take to help solve the problem — will be the focus of a workshop at ESF Oct. 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 will learn about proper sampling techniques and then have a chance to practice them during a hands-on training session.

Highlighting the event, called "Detecting Microplastics in Waterways with Citizen Science," will be 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 will speak at 1 p.m. in the Gateway Center on the ESF campus.

The workshop will also bring 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

The schedule includes presentations at 9 a.m. by EPA Region 2 scientist Anahita Williamson (who will return to ESF Oct. 26 to be honored during the annual Feinstone Environmental Awards "Women in Science" event), ESF President Quentin Wheeler and Syracuse University Vice President for Sustainabilty Initiatives Sherburne Abbot; and a panel seession at 10:15 a.m. that will include Abby Barrows of Adventure Scientists, "How about Microplastic Field Sampling Techniques: A Review for Citizen Science Initiatives"; Dr. Sheri Mason of SUNY Fredonia, "Microplastics Sample Processing and Analysis;" Margaret Murphy, an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow; and Dr. Nick Anastas of the EPA Office of Research and Development, "Sustainable Chemistry: A Potential Solution to Persistent, Bio-accumulative and Toxic Plastics."

A breakout session and demonstrations will be held afte the keynote. Participants will be introduced to preferred methods of microplastics sampling and then perform actual sampling to obtain tangible experience. The training session will be held in the Gateway Center.

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

Events will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Gateway Center on the ESF campus.