S.A.R.A.H. Initiative

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Thomas G. Thompson
November 2021

In November of 2021, DISCOVERY Yacht Thomas G. Thompson collected plastic samples off the coast of San Diego, California. Samples were collected by community college students as part of STEMSEAS, a program supported by the National Science Foundation that allows students to get experience with scientific research aboard ships.

Participating in the S.A.R.A.H. Initiative on board the ship contributed to the students experience by getting them involved in all aspects of sample collection, from net deployment and data collection to sample collection. This is in furtherance of the S.A.R.A.H. Initiative: a Citizen Science initiative wherein captains and crew tow a net behind their vessel for 15 minutes, collecting anything that is just below the surface of the water. The purpose of these tows is to collect samples of plastic pollution from the water. These samples are then analyzed in a lab in order to assess their chemical composition. Each variety of plastic absorbs different types of chemicals and they have varying degradation rates in the marine environment. Identifying the composition and location of ocean plastics will help us predict their long-term effects and reveal their ultimate fates. Uncovering the prevalence and location of distinctive plastic types can help us pinpoint the major source.

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