We need to know more about microplastics in the deep sea.

Establishing a baseline for microplastic accumulation in deep-sea animals using an historical sample archive: https://experiment.com/projects/establishing-a-baseline-for-microplastic-accumulation-in-deep-sea-animals-using-an-historical-sample-archive

Most of the plastic that enters our oceans in unaccounted for. While large, charismatic macroplastics float on or just beneath the surface, making for dramatic scenes of vast swaths of garbage littering the sea, the bulk of the plastic in the ocean exists as tiny particles of degraded plastics that sink to the bottom, enter food chains, and accumulate not just in the ecosystem, but within the tissue of marine animals.

The deep sea is a hotspot for microplastic accumulation. While we are just beginning to understand how microplastics accumulate in deep ocean sediments, precious few studies have investigated microplastic accumulation within organisms at vents and seeps.

Microplastics are now ubiquitous in the world’s oceans. Though they have been found in the tissues of shallow water species and isolated from deep-sea sediment, only a few studies have investigated the extent to which microplastics have accumulated in the tissues of deep sea macrofauna, especially those associated with hydrothermal vents and methane seeps. These ecosystems are not only deep, dark, and diverse, but rely on chemosynthesis for primary production.

If you’ve been following along with my adventures across social media, you may have seen that I recently inherited a massive collection of biological specimens from the deep sea. In addition to all the samples from my PhD work, I now have an archive that covers hydrothermal vents and methane seeps around the world collected over the last 20 years. This unique archive of biological samples provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to establish a baseline for microplastic accumulation in hydrothermal vent and methane seep species.

So that’s what I’m doing. But! I need your help.

Today, I launched Establishing a baseline for microplastic accumulation in deep-sea animals using an historical sample archive on Experiment, a crowdfunding platform for scientific research.

My objective is to establish a baseline for microplastic accumulation in deep-sea macrofauna from hydrothermal vents and methane seeps. This baseline will allow us to address key questions about the accumulation of microplastics in the deep sea.

Do microplastics accumulate in species that derive their food from the chemical energy in the plume of a hydrothermal vent? Does microplastic accumulation differ among non-chemosynthetic species associated with vents and seeps? Do patterns of microplastic accumulation vary among distinct deep-sea ecosystems and the general abyssal plane?

Consider heading over to Experiment and contributing a few dollars towards helping us better understand how human impacts are impacting some of the rarest and least understood ecosystems on the planet.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing with you some of the weird and wonderful creatures that are part of this collection, including, of course, the iconic Giant Deep-sea Isopod (don’t worry, this particular specimen is staying on display).

Giant Deep-sea Isopod, Bathynomus giganteus

Hey, Andrew, don’t you have a Patreon? Yes, yes I do. And I realize it’s super confusing to have two different fundraising platforms running simultaneously. Patreon supports this website, OpenCTD development, and my other weird projects. Experiment will be used to fund this microplastics study, exclusively. And, just to make things more confusing, everything I raise from Patreon this month will also go toward the Experiment microplastic project.

Walking fish and microbe warfare: Thursday Afternoon Dredging, February 15, 2018

Cuttings (short and sweet): 

Spoils (long reads and deep dives):

Please add your own cuttings and spoils in the comments!

If you appreciate my shark research and conservation outreach, please consider supporting me on Patreon! Any amount is appreciated, and supporters get exclusive rewards!