Marine debris: Scale and impact of trash in ocean ecosystems

Principal Investigator(s): 

Kara Lavender Law and Steven D. Gaines

Ocean pollution by plastic and other man-made debris is a pressing environmental problem that has captured the attention of marine conservationists, anti-plastic activists, the media and the general public.  While this problem is not new – plastic debris in the ocean was first reported in the 1970s – a rigorous scientific evaluation of the problem has lagged behind the increasing attention from a diverse set of stakeholders.  Only recently has “marine debris” begun to emerge as a recognized field of scientific inquiry, with novel research efforts underway in tandem with new interest by major funding agencies and foundations.

The Marine Debris Working Group consists of a team of international experts in fields including oceanography, marine ecology, toxicology, polymer, science and waste management, who have been synthesizing existing information across these disciplines to answer fundamental questions about the sources, amount, behavior, and impacts of man-made debris in the marine environment.  The results of this two-year working group will become available in 2014, providing a much-needed scientific grounding to the subject that will inform the public, industry stakeholders and policymakers, in addition to the scientific community.

This project is supported by the Ocean Conservancy and by NCEAS Postdoctoral Researcher, Mark Browne.

Photo Credit: Giora Proskurowski, Sea Education Association

More information for project participants

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