Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 21 S/V Kaisei: Taking Action

Monday, 24 August 2009
Lat: 38°50’ N Lon: 126°36’ W

Part of being an active environmental citizen, starts with being aware of up and coming bills and initiatives. Here are some of PKST’s favorite green bills happening in our golden state, California.

Clean Seas Legislation 2009:
• SB 4: Smoking Ban: up on August 19th for assembly floor vote. This bill bans smoking on public beaches and parks statewide, as cigarette butts are a significant component of marine debris.
• AB 925: Leash Your Lid: Plastic Beverage Container Caps. Up in a few weeks before the Senate. Like the pop-tops of aluminum cans of the 1970’s, this law would make plastic beverage bottle caps become part of California’s successful bottle recycling by requiring caps be attached to the bottle. Retailers would be prohibited from selling a single use plastic beverage container with a cap that is not attached to or part of the beverage container, and made from a recyclable material. This bill is important for large seabirds, which often mistake plastic bottle caps for food. Ingestion of plastic bottle cap debris can lead to malnutrition, starvation and premature death for ordinarily long-lived seabirds such as the albatross.
• SB 79: BPA Ban [Up in the Assembly]: Rather than waiting years for the state’s regulatory process under Green Chemistry, this bill would ban bisphenol-A (BPA), a known endocrine disruptor in baby bottles, sippy cups, formula cans and food jars. Emerging research indicates BPA is linked to a host of serious developmental and health problems, even in extremely low doses. Canada has banned this chemical in baby bottles and has signaled its intention to regulate it in food containers, and Minnesota has banned it, with legislation pending in 23 states. Many CA local municipalities have taken action including San Francisco, as well as Chicago and Suffolk County in New York.

2010 Legislation:
• AB 283: Extended Producer Responsibility Act of 2010:
The bill requires the state to administer a program to have producers of designated products be responsible for the lifecycle of their product, including waste disposal. Modeled after successful EU, Canadian and other international programs, this framework legislation sets some criteria to consider when designating products and/or packaging to be considered for regulation, but doesn’t specify products themselves. By shifting responsibility off of local governments and consumers, this bill encourage producers to research alternatives during the product design and packaging phases, in order to foster cradle-to-cradle producer responsibility.
• SB 21: Regulations on Lost or Abandoned Derelict Fishing Gear: This bill would require the department, in collaboration with the council, by January 1, 2011, to recommend to the commission sustainable funding sources for a program for the prevention of the loss of fishing gear and for the recovery of derelict fishing gear.
• AB 68: Single-Use Plastic Bag Fee: This bill will give consumers a choice of switching to reusable bags or paying 25 cents for each plastic or paper bag for litter prevention and clean-up.
• AB 87: Mitigation on Single-Use Plastic Bags: Existing law requires, until January 1, 2013, an operator of a store, as defined, to establish an at-store recycling program that provides to customers the opportunity to return clean plastic carryout bags to that store.
• AB 1358: Polystyrene Disposable Food Container Ban: Prohibits a food vendor from dispensing prepared food to a customer in a disposable polystyrene non-recyclable plastic or non-recycled paper container. Authorizes compostable plastic containers in a jurisdiction where organic waste is collected. Prohibits a state facility or vendor doing business with the state from using a polystyrene foam food service container at state facilities.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 20 S/V Kaisei: Thank You North Face

Sunday, 23 August 2009
Lat: 39°05’ N Lon: 130°05’ W

“Our ocean should not be our world’s dumping ground. We need to start taking responsibility for our waste, not just from production to landfill, but the entire life-cycle analysis.”- Nicole Argyropoulos

We would like to start this journal with a gracious thank you to North Face for sponsoring the Project Kaisei Science Team (PKST) with beanies and water-resistant jackets. These items have not only helped PKST endure the harsh elements of the sea, but have allowed us to conduct our research comfortably. Thank you North Face for your gracious donation and supporting our mission!
Today, PKST conducted two daytime trawls revealing a decrease in marine debris, and these samples will be used for Dr. Gonsior’s hydrogen peroxide experiment to show the influence of marine debris on the major reactive oxygen species. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is the most stable of the reactive oxygen species (ROS) and is involved in oxidative stress for organisms. This H2O2 may be stable in the open ocean for days. It is produced by sunlight interacting with light-absorbing organic molecules. The hypothesis of this study is that marine debris promotes the hydrogen peroxide production in ocean surface waters and is responsible for an increased release of this oxidative stress component into the surface ocean. First results do show a substantial effect of marine debris on hydrogen peroxide production rates. These findings need to be further evaluated to investigate the reasons for this increased production of H2O2. Experiments such as these, will help PKST understand a variety of components and stresses involved with marine debris and our oceanic environments.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day 19 S/V Kaisei: The Power of One

Saturday, 22 August 2009
Lat: 38°51’ N Lon: 133°23’ W

“Time is of the essence. We didn’t know before, but now we do and it’s not an issue of pointing fingers or accusing anybody. Now that we know the consequences, we need to immediately change. It's time to find ways to prevent such chemicals from entering the environment in the first place, to find alternatives, and to anticipate problems before they occur. We cannot wait to find a cure for dangerous products after they are in the environment and in us.” – Jean-Michel Cousteau

The Ten Perils About Synthetic Polymer Marine Debris-
1. A large percentage of marine debris consists of synthetic polymers (plastic):
• Marine litter currently consists of 60–80% plastic polymers, and, in some areas, plastic accounts for 90–95% of marine debris (Moore, 2008).
• Plastics make up to 80–85% of the seabed debris in Tokyo Japan, (Kanehiro et al., 1995).
2. Plasticizers (“phthalates”) leach from polymer debris and are found in oceanic environments:
• Although the phthalate bisphenol A (BPA) is easily degraded, it is frequently detected in aquatic environments due to its continuous release. BPA is produced in large quantities (Oehlmann, 2008), and it is a potential carcinogen.
• Plastic products contain approximately 50% fillers and additives by weight including harmful phthalates (Colton et al., 1974).
• The softer the (plastic) product, such as children’s bathtub “rubber” ducks, the greater the amount of phthalates present. Phthalates are also used in products such as cosmetics and pills. Because phthalates are not chemically bonded to PVC pipes, they leach from PVC plastic (vom Saal, 2008).
3. Phthalates leach more from old or weathered polymers:
• The rate of leaching of BPA from polycarbonate plastic products increases with repeated use, washing, exposure to heat, and contact with acidic or basic substances (vom Saal, 2008).
4. Some phthalates are known endocrine disrupters and can cause reproductive problems in animals:
• While plastic products are often presented to the public as being inert, a number of their phthalates have been classified as “endocrine disrupting chemicals” that contaminate not only all the organ systems in the adult body (Colborn et al., 1993) but also aquatic organisms throughout the world (Oehlmann, 2008).
• Many common phthalates cause reproductive toxicity in rodents (Howdeshell, 2008).
• Male laboratory rats exposed to certain phthalates exhibited malformations and alterations to reproductive tissues (Parks et al., 2000; Wilson et al., 2004; Foster, 2006).
5. Some phthalates can affect brain formation and functioning in animals:
• BPA, which is a chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic as well as a plasticizer added to PVC (polyvinyl chloride), affects brain organization and chemistry and behavior of laboratory animals when they are exposed to it in low doses (vom Saal et al., 2007).
6. Synthetic polymers breakdown into smaller and smaller pieces as they are exposed to oceanic environments:
• -Plastics become brittle and break into smaller pieces due to exposure to ultraviolet light, the hydrolytic properties of seawater, and the oxidative properties of the atmosphere (Moore, 2008).
7. Small plastic particles are highly accessible to organisms that feed on plankton or fish near the ocean surface:
• Forty-four percent of all seabirds ingest floating plastic while feeding on or near the surface of the water (Rios et al., 2007).
8. Toxic chemicals can attach to polymer surfaces and enter the food web when ingested by birds, fish, or other marine animals. In addition to causing physical blockage of the digestive system, ingested marine debris may also increase exposure to pollutants adsorbed on the plastic debris:
• Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) can adsorb onto plastic resin pellets and fragments from plastic products. Plastic debris can therefore serve as points of accumulation for harmful toxins in aquatic environments (Mato et al., 2001; Moore, 2005; Rios et al., 2007).
9. Flame retardants such as PBDEs (polybrominated diethyl-ethers) can be released into the environment from plastic products and are rapidly increasing in the environment:
• Plastic products can release the flame retardants PBDEs (polybrominated diethylethers) resulting in wide-spread chemical exposure to wildlife and humans, as well as plant species (vom Saal, 2008).
• These toxins are now in every corner of our earth and in every body of water (Hale et al. 2002; Lorber 2008).
• PBDEs are now recognized as a global pollutant even found within deep oceanic environments, in the Arctic, and Antarctica 8-10
10. Persistent toxic chemicals known to attach to synthetic polymer debris are being found in high concentrations in marine mammals and fish we eat:
• Persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) are attracted to plastic resin pellets and plastic product fragments (Rios et al., 2007; Moore et al., 2005; Mato et al., 2001).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 18 S/V Kaisei: The Strength of Sustainable Design

Friday, 21 August 2009
Lat: 38°51’ N Lon: 133°23’ W

Melanie Smith welcomes the Kaisei team as an assistant to Norton Smith, her uncle and Kaisei’s consulting engineer. She has been a keystone figure in assisting Norton with the final construction and deployment of his marine debris cleanup prototypes; including the previously mentioned Beach and Sweep. Completing his prototypes included designing the catchment nets and cod ends. In addition, she has recorded data, helped in the physical deployment, done repairs, and surveyed the successes and difficulties of the prototypes for design alterations.
Melanie joins Project Kaisei with a strong background in design, construction, and fabrication. Melanie’s initial design focus started in fashion with an emphasis on renewable fibers and textile design. Her next frontier expanded to landscape design and land planning with a focus on xeric
Her concern and exposure to environmental issues started at a young age. Starting with her father’s pioneering work in environmental issues and the birth of his organization, Whole Systems Foundation. Still in action today, Whole Systems Foundation provides funding for a number of environmental projects, including organic farming, environmental education, alternative energy research, and resource management programs. Melanie worked with her father for over fifteen years spearheading his environmental initiatives. When he passed, Melanie, Norton, and her brothers assumed the responsibility for Whole Systems Foundation.
On Project Kaisei, Melanie and Norton have been using the joint efforts of their creative and innovative backgrounds to better the environment through passive catchment devices used to capture marine debris. Today they launched the “Atoll”, which is a device obtaining an enclosed ring which sits on the surface of the water with a shallow catchment net inside. As the waves lap over the edge of the ring, the intention is to capture the marine debris inside the ring passively without harming marine life. Melanie and Norton noticed with the Atoll is not effective if there are strong winds. In essence, the wind washes the marine debris through the Atoll and nothing sinks to the cod end due to the lack of current flow.
Another device deployed this afternoon was nicknamed “Norton’s Giza” for its pyramid-like shape. This inverted pyramid rides the surface water with a sea anchor, 30 ft below the bottom of the pyramid. The function of this sea anchor is to have the surface pyramid be more stable with swells; as the swells flush into the pyramid and then slowly the pyramid would rise after the swell has passed. This fluctuation approach is designed to flush water through the pyramid capturing marine debris through the cod end. Norton’s Giza looked promising by capturing smaller particles of marine debris, having a one-way valve trapping the marine debris in the cod end. However, the standing winner of all of these deployment devices is the Beach with the least affect on organic organisms and capturing the most marine debris. Melanie and Norton’s strive for these passive collecting prototypes expand to future deployment on a larger scale, capturing the most amount of marine debris while affecting the least amount of biota.
landscaping and open space development. Melanie’s design experience continued as sustainable design consultant with the construction and design of buildings using an energy efficient approach.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 17 S/V Kaisei: Marine Debris Treasures

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Lat: 36° 56’ N Lon: 140° 49’ W

“Most of our samples will not be identified until we get back to shore but the visual interpretations are astounding. It is vitally important that we make a huge change in our habits. It is imperative that we start managing all of our resources wisely”- Dr. Andrea Neal

Today is final day of small boat collection for marine debris in the Subtropical Convergence Zone of The North Pacific Gyre, led by Nicole Argyropoulos and Ryan Morris. As Ryan and Nicole gathered the appropriate nets, they checked in with the crew aloft and on deck to help announce any debris they spot near the small boat. While at sea, they found a plethora of items, including a sand castle mold, half of a soda bottle crate, a laundry basket, buoys, plastic water bottles, Styrofoam floating aimlessly on the top of the water, nets, strainers, and an abnormally large red light bulb. With constant sightings of marine debris from the ship, collecting these large pieces was easier than anticipated.

In our studies in the North Pacific Gyre we have been filtering surface water samples to look at not only very fine debris, but nano-sized debris. Recent nano-toxicology publications have brought attention and urgency to understanding possible mechanisms of toxicity, and environmental impacts of exposures to sub 100 nm nano-structured materials. As research continues, we are finding more ways that nano-structured materials can be toxic: from the asbestos like qualities of carbon nanotubes1, to acute toxicity to aquatic invertebrates from nano-sized titanium dioxide 2-4, and the possible toxic impacts of nanoparticles on environmentally prevalent bacteria 5. The effects of nano-structured material waste from industrial production and consumer goods is becoming a prominent issue with the increased incorporation of these materials into everyday items ranging from facial cosmetics, batteries and even appliances 6. It is now known that plastic resin pellets and broken bits of consumer plastics carry certain classes of POPs in greater concentrations than virgin polyethylene pellets 3-5. What all of this means, is that our oceans are being impacted by both visible and non visible pollutants. These toxins are not only impacting life in the ocean they are also impacting us. However, how all of these pollutants interact with ocean biota, people, and even other toxins is a very complicated story that needs further study.

Currently, we are 700 miles off shore and the majority of identifiable marine debris seems to be from the Western Pacific. The North Pacific Gyre is generated by the easterly trade winds and the westerlies in the north. The wind movement forces the water to move in the same direction. These two wind systems create opposite water movements and in combination with the Coriolis Force creates a vortex, in this case the North Pacific Gyre. The western boundary current of the North Pacific Gyre is the Kuroshio current off the southern coast of Japan extending eastwards across the Pacific. The eastern boundary of the gyre is defined by the California Current flowing initially south before it converges towards the west, completing the rotation of the North Pacific Gyre. The Kuroshio Current is analogous to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean as part of the North Atlantic Gyre. Therefore, it is not surprising to find marine debris from the Western Pacific, as well the Eastern Pacific Ocean including California. Identifiable marine debris may help to further evaluate the origin of this debris.

1. CRAIG A. POLAND, R. D., IAN KINLOCH, ANDREW MAYNARD,WILLIAM A. H. WALLACE, ANTHONY SEATON, VICKI STONE, SIMON BROWN,WILLIAM MACNEE AND KEN DONALDSON, Carbon nanotubes introduced into the abdominal cavity ofmice show asbestoslike pathogenicity in a pilot study. nature nanotechnology | 2008, ahead of print online

2. Adams, L. K.; Lyon, D. Y.; McIntosh, A.; Alvarez, P. J. J., Comparative toxicity of nano-scale TiO2, SiO2 and ZnO water suspensions. Water Science and Technology 2006, 54, (11-12), 327-334.

3. Hund-Rinke, K.; Simon, M., Ecotoxic effect of photocatalytic active nanoparticles TiO2 on algae and daphnids. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 2006, 13, (4), 225-232.

4. Lovern, S. B.; Klaper, R., Daphnia magna mortality when exposed to titanium dioxide and fullerene (C-60) nanoparticles. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 2006, 25, (4), 1132-1137.

5. Handy, R. D.; von der Kammer, F.; Lead, J. R.; Hassellov, M.; Owen, R.; Crane, M., The ecotoxicology and chemistry of manufactured nanoparticles. Ecotoxicology 2008, 17, (4), 287-314.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 16 S/V Kaisei: The Inescapable Truth

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Lat: 36° 10’ N Lon: 140 ° 28’ W

"Solving a problem starts with knowing that you have one. Project Kaisei vividly shows how discarded plastics are clogging the ocean, causing a major problem for the planet's vital blue heart, entangling marine life and insidiously killing as it accumulates in the food chain, from tiny plankton to great whales. Best of all, the mission hig


hope with ideas for positive action."

- Dr. Sylvia Earle

During our time in the gy

re, we have found variable amounts of biota

in our trawl samples, primarily jellies and other invertebrate organisms. Today, Heather Coleman and H

amish Currie, one of ourloyal crewmembers from New Zealand, went hunting on the dinghy for large, recognizable pieces of marine debris. They recovered and brought onboard three plastic crates, numerous

plastic bottles ranging from orange juice to laundry detergent containers, plastic

lids, shards of plastic, buoys, buckets, and plastic trays. The big hunt for marine debris throughout the North Pacific Gyre showed that the sources of origin are diverse. Many of these large floa


“shelters” provide a safe haven for oceanic creatures; we have commonly seen small


llowtail and pilot fish (jacks family), gooseneck barnacles, and crabs. Dr. Michael Gonsior seized the opportunity to cast his fishing pole into the large school of fish beside the boat, catching a small yellowtail fish. Dr. Margy Gassel dissected the fish, preserving the organs in a gluteraldehyde solution and freezing musc

le tissue for analysis of persistent toxic chemicals. Continuing on our intensive research schedule, we lowered the Conductivity Temperature Depth (CTD) Profiler into the water. The CTD we are using measures salinity, temperature, depth, dissolved oxygen, and chlorophyll. In addition, we trawled on four separate occasions during the day to maximize collections for educational outreach.

After an afternoon of sampling, a monstrous ghost net was spotted

floating aiml

essly in the ocean. This net, initially comprised of discarded rope, had gathered a number of items caught within its turbulent path, such as buoys, fishing line, the lower half of a chair, and a large gill net. The ghost net was so heavy that we were unable to haul it out of the

water and onboard S/V Kaisei, even with all 25 participants pulling lines. Therefo

re, we had to rethink our plan of action and decided to send Dr. Gonsior and Norton Smith in a small boat to cut the ghost net in half. After numerous efforts to sever the net into smaller pieces, we managed to bring what we could salvage (about half of the net) on board as the sun set into nightfall. As we watched the other half drift out into the ocean, we recognized how ineffectual we were in relation to this massive problem.

We are now into the l

atter half of our journey and have seen disturbing evidence of the marine debris problem in the North Pacific Ocean. We hope that one outcome of Project Kaisei will be increased knowledge about marine debris and its impacts on one of our keystone environments—the ocean—and organisms that rely on it, including ourselves.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 15 S/V Kaisei: Joining Kaisei, Corinne Hume

Tuesday, 18 Au
gust 2009
Lat: 34° 24’ N Lon: 138° 39’ W

One of our co-principal investigators of the Project Kaisei Science Team (PKST), Corinne Hume, started her day counting plastic pieces visible under the triangular net of the bow. Total counts of visible plastics in a given area for 30-minute intervals help the Kaisei team measure relative densities of surface plastic debris. When we encounter a high-density area, Captain Mike Smith slows the ship Kaisei and circles the area to allow PKST to get as much sampling data from these areas as possible. Our engineer Norton Smith has also used these opportunities to launch his debris-collection prototypes. Later in the day, Corinne assists with processing manta trawl collections and recording data. Corinne first became interested in marine debris while writing about the North Pacific Gyre and accumulation of oceanic plastic debris for an undergraduate journalism class. A few years later, Corinne’s mother, Denise Hume, became involved with Project Kaisei as a representative of the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Chemistry Initiative. Working for the State’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, Denise Hume conducts research on environmental health and develops strategies for pollution prevention. While living in Simi Valley in 1989, Corinne was introduced to environmental problems at a young age when a nearby plant accidentally released chlorine. The entire city was evacuated; thankfully, the chlorine gassed without causing any harm to the community.

Corinne also appreciated the beauty of nature while frequently hiking through Southern California. Corinne’s mother was a docent of the Sierra Club at the time, and Corinne’s connection with nature throughout her childhood led her to become involved in environmental restoration projects. While attending a private high school in Ojai, Corinne and her class went to Chennai, India, to participate in a sea turtle protection program. During the project, Corinne helped newly hatched sea turtles that commonly get off course due to light pollution find their way to the ocean. Also while in India, Corinne helped a rural school in Rishi Valley expand their permaculture garden and provide more medicinal and food crops for their community. During her time in India, she was surprised by the amount of pollution permeating the land, air, and water. She vividly remembers the residue of the air staining her hands a burnt sienna color and the heaps of trash lining the streets. This impression led her to become concerned about the health of our planet.

In college, Corinne attended a colloquium hosted by the European Union in Ghent, Belgium, about recycling agricultural byproducts and exploring the possibilities of turning what was once waste into commodities. During this colloquium, she visited different manufacturing plants, such as the EcoVer, which makes sustainable household products from a zero-waste business model.

The colloquium’s purpose was to allow college students from around the world to brainstorm about incorporating agricultural byproducts into business design. While in school, she also worked at the Pathogen Detection Lab of the California Regional Primate Research Center at the University of California at Davis (UCD). A recent graduate from UCD with a B.S. in Natural Sciences, Corinne was invited to sail on the S/V Kaisei as a research assistant. She was intrigued by the opportunity to see parts of the North Pacific Gyre and hopes to learn more about environmental problems and the planet’s ecological state through first hand experience with Project Kaisei. Corinne also looks forward to sharing information from this trip with family and friends at home.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day 14 S/V Kaisei: Creating New Collection Strategies

Monday, 17 August 2009

Lat: 33° 57’ N Lon: 139° 03’ W

This evening, the entire Kaisei crew held a group meeting to discuss the best strategies for marine debris collection and finding points of accumulation. Because more turbulent weather is expected, our team is trying to maximize the last of our calm days. All parts of the Kaisei crew are joining forces to find debris fields. One of our continuing strategies is counting marine debris from aloft or on the bowsprit for 30-minute intervals. By taking these counts, we get a sense of the frequency of debris, and PKST can compare this information with our trawl collections. Our goal is to sample in areas with both high and low accumulation rates of marine debris.

Another strategy involves launching our dinghies (“tenders”) in the debris fields to collect large pieces we would otherwise be unable to attain. The larger, more intact pieces will be used for educational outreach and displays in various museums. Many of these pieces tell a story about the origin of the displaced debris in the North Pacific Gyre. For example, today we found a fishing weight with Chinese characters. We also found plastic detergent bottles, bottle caps, lids, netting, plastic bags, a baseball, and other miscellaneous large pieces of plastic floating in the expansive ocean. Below our humble abode, S/V Kaisei, is 18,000 feet of water (6,000 meters); outside a portal window is one plastic bottle more than 1,000 nautical miles (~1,850 km) from the nearest coastline. The image is alarming, and PKST is uncovering evidence of the progression of marine debris as it breaks down to the insidious small particulates accumulating in our trawls. The combination of polymers the ocean has not been able to biodegrade, possible toxicity of small to nano-sized particles, and attachment of persistent toxic chemicals to these surfaces is a forecast of a frightening future. We are seeing that the ocean is full of this ubiquitous waste, clogging and tangling our blue planet.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day 13 S/V Kaisei: Forging Discovery

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Lat: 34° 05’ N Lon: 140° 15’ W

Today, Nicole Argyropoulos, one of our co-principal investigators, assisted Dr. Neal in her multi-tiered filtration analysis. On a ship, feeding ocean water through a drip system can be a challenge; however, Dr. Neal and Nicole finally devised an effective gravity-fed system that functioned as needed to process samples. Nicole joined the Project Kaisei Science Team (PKST) in a multi-faceted position: creating first drafts of the science blog, assisting in research, and coordinating educational outreach material.The catalyst for Nicole’s environmental zeal began with a deep-rooted love for animals. She subscribed to the Wildlife Fact File at age seven. Her mother could only get her to the dentist if she agreed to take Nicole to the Humane Society afterwards to walk the dogs. With an introduction to the greenhouse effect in third grade, Nicole took action in her own house and

introduced her parents to an entire recycling program, from plastics to compost

. Becoming fascinated with the ability for waste to become fertile soil, she started working with her grandmother to plant organic gardens and to learn about sustainable agriculture. Her first job was at the farmer’s market selling peppers at a local Santa Barbara stand.

Growing up by the ocean, Nicole was constantly tide pooling and enjoying the sea’s splendors. Throughout high school, she took many environmentally focused classes and volunteered in trail building, beach clean-ups, and seminars geared towards educating the public about environmental issues.

Nicole chose to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder for their excellent natural science program. While attending, she became very active in the university arena, joining the Biodiesel Committee, The Alpine Club, and the Journalism Board, writing about environmental issues in the Boulder area. In her senior year, Nicole flew to New York to volunteer at the Clinton Global Initiative as the CEO’s assistant. The Clinton Global Initiative is a three-day meeting of some of the most influential minds gathered to help solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. Nicole was inspired by the call for immediate action. After she graduated from CU Boulder in Geography, Nicole packed her bags and worked for the Clinton Foundation in the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI). At CCI, Nicole conducted baseline research, created sustainable design models and approaches, and wrote proposals for the Energy Efficient Building Retrofit Program, which aims to help 40 of the world’s largest cities reduce their carbon footprint through green architectural design.

While working for CCI, Nicole was introduced to the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) during a presentation on their sustainable design objectives for their energy-efficient retrofit of the Empire State Building. Amazed by their presentation and contribution to the environment, Nicole applied to work at RMI the following spring. Upon receiving the job, she packed her things once again and moved back to Boulder, Colorado. Following her passion in green architecture, she was placed on the Built Environment Team to work in sustainable design and as a liaison to the Communications Team. Throughout her time at RMI, Nicole conducted a plethora of case studies showing how green architecture was becoming increasingly popular due to its economic benefits. Nicole also led wilderness therapy trips through the Rocky Mountain Range teaching the importance of biology and backcountry skills. Inspired by her experience working at RMI, Nicole plans to continue her graduate education in environmental economics and policy.

After her rocky mountain adventure, Nicole returned to hometown Santa Barbara to take pre-requisite classes for graduate school. There she started working for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society where she met Dr. Neal and started becoming involved in many grassroots campaigns and organizations geared towards addressing marine debris. Being back by the coast after six years and seeing how detrimental effects of dumping waste in oceans was becoming an increasing concern, Nicole became more involved with the oceanic community. After working on many environmental projects and teaching seminars with Dr. Neal, Nicole was invited to be a part of PKST. Still holding true to her early environmental aspirations as a child, Nicole will continue her career with innovative groups trying to heal the planet. Her involvement in Project Kaisei has shown her the results of our “wasteful” actions and has solidified her ecological path. She is moving to the San Francisco Bay Area after the voyage and looks forward to embracing this paradigm-shifting city.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 12 S/V Kaisei: Dissolved Organic Matter (DOM) Analysis Saturday, 15 August 2009 Lat: 34° 30’ N Lon: 141° 46’ W

Saturday, 15 August 2009
Lat: 34° 30’ N Lon: 141° 46’ W

Dr. Michael Gonsior

Today, Dr. Michael Gonsior, one of our co-principal investigators, collected another set of water samples at 200 meters depth and at the surface for dissolved organic matter (DOM) analysis. DOM is an important part of the global carbon cycle. The amount of carbon in DOM in the oceans is equal to carbon in atmospheric CO2 and also to carbon present in all land-based biomass. However, this important component of the carbon cycle is not well understood due to the fact that 80% of the molecular composition is unknown. Without a molecular understanding, the reactivity of this highly dynamic DOM pool cannot be evaluated.

Only recently, a new analytical technique referred to as “ultra-high resolution electrospray ionization Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry” (ESI-FT-ICR-MS) became available to analyze the complex pool of dissolved organic molecules in an unsurpassed fashion. The samples taken during this research cruise are the first collected in the Pacific Ocean for ESI-FT-ICR-MS analysis. In addition to basic research of DOM characterization in surface waters, the leaching of DOM from marine debris will be also studied. The hypothesis is that biota associated with DOM does produce a significantly different pool of DOM and therefore have the potential to influence the DOM dynamics and composition in open ocean surface environments. If this hypothesis holds, it will be seen later after the analysis at the Helmholtz Zentrum Munich in collaboration with Professor Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin.

Dr. Michael Gonsior 6,000 meters to the deep end

Dr. Gonsior was always interested in science and found chemistry very interesting throughout high school and college inHueckelhoven, Germany. As a teenager, environmental problems concerned him and he experienced the effectsand news coverage of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in the former Soviet Union. He began his study of chemistry at the University of Aachen, Germany, and changed universities for his postgraduate study in environmental chemistry at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany. During his studies, he took all opportunities to travel and study abroad including five months at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, Scotland and nine months at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. Dr. Gonsior dedicated as much time as possible to travel and learn about people and cultures. Not completely satisfied with his M.Sc. in Environmental Chemistry, he completed a second master’s degree in Environmental Protection Engineering at the University of Dresden. Dr. Gonsior became involved in soil science, and took an opportunity to work on an international carbon cycling program in the mountain rainforest in southern Ecuador. During his nine months in Ecuador, he was exposed to the complexity of life in developing country.

Dr. Andrea Neal and Dr. Michael Gonsior

After finishing his second M.Sc., Dr. Gonsior decided to complete a doctoral program in marine chemistry and applied for a scholarship to Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand. The application was approved and Michael started his Ph.D. study in New Zealand in 2004 under the supervision of Professor Barrie M. Peake and Bill J. Cooper, a professor from the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Bill J. Cooper and Dr. Gonsior became good friends while in New Zealand.

After he finished his Ph.D. degree in 2008, analyzing dissolved organic matter in New Zealand’s natural waters, Dr. Gonsior was invited to apply for a post-doctoral position in Bill Cooper’s laboratory at the Urban Water Research Center, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UCI. His application was accepted, and he works in this laboratory to the present day. Besides being enthusiastic and engaged in marinechemistry and biogeochemical cycles, he also followed his passion for helping people in developing countries, and became vice-president of the non-for-profit, volunteer organization Engineers Without Borders, Orange County Professional chapter. Since that time, he has been involved in a humanitarian project to build a footbridge in Kenya to help local communities to access a small clinic on the opposite site of a river.

Dr. Michael Gonsior in The Rigging

Dr. Gonsior’s first exposure to the influence of marine debris on life happened while he was still working on his Ph.D. in New Zealand where he learned about threats to albatross at the local albatross colony on the Otago Peninsula. Being fascinated by these birds that were always present during his research cruises in the Southern Ocean, he found out that albatross breeding on the Midway Islands in the Northern Pacific Ocean feed their chicks plastic debris accidentally mistaken as food. Hence, the death rate of albatross chicks is very high due to starvation. While working at UCI one year later, Dr. Gonsior attended a seminar given by Captain Charles Moore from the Algalita Foundation in Long Beach, California about the accumulation of marine debris in the North Pacific Gyre. Dr. Gonsior was astonished to see the degree we have polluted our world’s ocean. Together with Professor Bill Cooper, they decided to help educate the world and further scientifically evaluate marine debris in the North Pacific Gyre. They also extended the research into the Atlantic Gyre located in the Sargasso Sea. Earlier this year, Dr. Andrea Neal met Bill Cooper and told him about Project Kaisei. Later, she also went to the UCI laboratory where she and Dr. Gonsior started to develop scientific objectives for Project Kaisei.

Dr. Gonsior’s future plans will involve an extended time in Kenya to help the Engineers Without Borders project. His scientific goals involve using state-of-the-art analytical techniques to investigate the least known components of the global carbon cycle, which happens to be located in his favorite environment: the world’s ocean. He will also continue to educate people and, in particular, high school students, to learn how we can prevent spoiling our oceans. Scientific research of marine debris will continue and will help to give further evidence of the frightening situation of pollution in marine environments.