Monday, March 22, 2010

Answers to Student Questions

Hi Marcus here answering a few questions…

Q: What are you most excited about seeing on this trip or doing? Michael Las Vegas, NV Faith Lutheran

A: I’m having so much fun just sailing on a tall ship. There are three masts. The middle mast is 150ft tall. There are 29 sails! It’s an amazing opportunity to sail the way people did 150 years ago. When we get to Mauritius we’ll check out some roosting sites where albatross nest. We want to know if they eat plastic like the albatross do on Midway Atoll.

Q: Hi I'm Chase from Faith Lutheran in Las Vegas, Nevada. I know that the plastic has a large effect on the smaller marine life, but does it affect such larger animals as the beluga whale?

A: Yes, we find that Beluga whales are not only ingesting plastics and storing them in their stomachs, but their bodies develop deformities because of the chemicals they absorb from the ocean environment. Please do some research online to see some of these stories. It’s a really sad affair for these cetaceans and others. As you know, whales are at the top of the food chain, so they are eating all of the pollution that thousands of smaller animals have already consumed. It bioaccumulates in their tissues and organs. It happens to humans as well. Search on the internet for a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group called “Ten Americans”. You will be surprised.

Q: Howdy Yall, my name's John and I'm your favorite duputy. I am at 12thgrader from Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was just wondering, what do you guys do for fun, besides researching of the ocean?

A: We do have lot’s of fun studying the ocean. We’ve now traveled 3 of the world’s 5 subtropical gyres. For fun, and work, we’ve done a couple of things recently. We bicycled 2000 miles from Vancouver, Canada to Tijuana, Mexico to give 40 talks about plastic to universities, politicians and local conservation organizations. Before that, we built a raft from 15,000 plastic bottles and sailed 2,600 miles across the Pacific Ocean. Check out to see the fun we have doing our work, and follow the link to Algalita to see the research we’ve done.

Q: greetings fellow sailors, i was wondering since the small fish eat this plastic, does the plastic effect the bigger fish when they eat the small plastic filed fish?- brandon faith lutheran high school

A: Yes, plastic carries POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants). These likely bioaccumulate up the food chain and end up on your dinner plate. This is where the science is now. We want to know if plastic really does this, and how bad it is. There is a need for people like you to become environmental scientists and help create a sustainable world.

Q: Greetings from Faith Lutheran HS in Las Vegas, Nevada. I am called Samuel, but my comrads call me Sam and am in the grade of 12. I pondered how you would fix this problem of large amounts of plastic in the ocean?

A: We can’t clean up the ocean in any practical way. Starting in the ocean to clean up the plastic is the most expensive and time consuming place to clean up waste. It has to happen on land first. To fix it you’ve got to stop adding more. Plastic is an environmental hazard at sea. We’ve got to stop making throw-away, single-use products from a material that’s designed to last forever. That means, no more plastic bags, straws, cup lids, bottles, bottle caps, knives and forks made from cheap, oil-based plastic. But you can start right now! Do you have a steel water bottle? You can buy a steel water bottle for the price of 10 plastic bottles of water, but your canteen will last for years. Do you have a cloth grocery bag? I’ve got a dozen made from t-shirts.

Q: Faith Lutheran High School Nevada,USA 12th grade Trevor What other products do you suggested we use instead of plastic?

A: Steel water bottles, cloth bags, bamboo reusable silverware and cloth napkins. In a restaurant tell the waiter, “No straw in my water please.” As far as the material, paper, metal, glass and wood worked just fine 50 years ago. Right now all of the solutions exist around you. Aluminum cans carry soda, why not water, liquid detergent or motor oil? Glass bottles carry wine, why not other liquids? Detergent powder comes in a box, so we don’t really need it in a plastic bottle? Do you ever need a straw? A plastic bag? What other observations of solutions to you see around you?

Q: Ahoy maties! I am John of Faith Lutheran, located within the boundaries of Las Vegas, Nevada. Besides encountering any swashbuckling pirates, what might be yer' greatest danger upon the deck's of the mighty Stad Amsterdam?

A: No Pirates, but we did see a few fishing boats yesterday. Maybe you could do us a favor and research instances of piracy off the coast of Madagascar. It’s actually a very serious issue for sailors. There are more and more boats being hijacked, crew killed, and ships left abandoned. It’s nothing like what you see in the movies.

Q: Hey, I am a senior at Faith Lutheran Jr/Sr High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. My question for you is "What type of equipment do you use daily on your expeditions at sea?"

A: Check here to see the manta trawl we deploy to capture our surface samples of the sea. It’s basically a net with two wings that keep it flying on the surface. We pull it at 3-4 knots for an hour, then empty the net into a jar. After counting the pieces of plastic and weighing them, we can publish the data in a journal.

Q: Is there a reason for following Darwin's expedition? Did the HMS Beagle go through the 5 gyres or something?

A: Following Darwin isn’t our idea, it’s the idea of the Dutch production company that invited us. Beagle VPRO has taken the challenge to follow Darwin’s footsteps to see how the world has changed. It’s an awesome opportunity to be a part of it. We’re also looking at how the world has changed. Darwin saw a new world. We’re now watching that world begin to fall apart. Human civilization must learn to live within our ecological boundaries, and not take more than what can naturally replace on its own. That means, no overfishing, no destroying natural ecosystems when other developed land lies abandoned, no dumping waste into the sea, especially plastic, and sending less carbon into the air from power plants. Eat local food, drive less, walk, ride your bike, and put a solar panel on your roof. The smartest human tomorrow will be the person/family/community that gives more to the world than they take.

Q: Jacobe (from Faith Lutheran High Las Vegas, NV) How much government money are you guys using and how much is this whole project costing.

A: No government funds here. We were invited to be part of a production about Darwin, so the TV show pays those expenses. We are doing research, so we will collect 10-15 samples of the sea surface. Back at the Algalita lab we have some money given by a private family, which we will use to process the sample. This trip across the Indian Ocean is basically a dream come true.

Q: Hello, I am from Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas, NV, USA. I was wonder have you discovered any new species of marine animals?

A: No new species, but if we were to trawl near the ocean floor 5000 feet below, we might find something new. The seafloor is the new frontier. With so much attention focused on going to Mars, we only need to go deep in our own oceans to find new life in the solar system. There’s a need for new oceanographers to understand the ecology of the ocean ecosystem. It could be you.

Q: Hello, I'm from faith lutheran high (Las Vegas NV). My question is how long will it take to reach your destination, and what are some personal goals you wishto accomplish while your in the midst of your travel?

A: We’ll be at sea for two more weeks to get to Mauritius. My goals, to arrive safely with my wife Anna, and I want to collect at least 10 samples. My greater goal is to tell the world about the state of our oceans. Our planet is 70% ocean. We are a blue planet, and this watery world is what keeps most life on land alive. Plastic does nothing good for the ocean. I would be very happy to see no more new plastic pollution entering the sea.

Q: Hi! I'm Paige Fulfer from Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. How long is this expedition going to last? And also, how expensive is it?

A: How long….2 weeks. How expensive…2 much. I’m not paying the cost. The production company, Beagle VPRO is retracing the route of Charles Darwin. Anna and I were lucky to be invited along.

Q: Hello there crew of the grand ole stad amsterdam. My name is Joe fromLas Vegas Nevada. I want to know where you put the plastic when you get it?

A: The plastic we get will be kept with our scientific samples. We’re not out here to clean up the Indian Ocean Gyre. That would be a waste of time and money. All solutions MUST begin on land. If you spend a few hours to remove a pound plastic out of the sea, in that time the world has contributed hundreds of pound more! You’ve got to stop the source.

Q: Do you think spreading the cause to help the great pacific garbage patch, would make people stop the pollution of plastic in the ocean? -Roland

A: There are 5 garbage patches in the world. This is a global issue. A soon as we recognize that, and have a consensus about solutions, then we’ll see the flow of plastic pollution to the ocean end. But it begins with science, then communication. Check out to read about our bike tour that went 2000 miles from Vancouver, Canada to Tijuana, Mexico to give 40 public lectures about plastic waste.

Q: Hello, my name is Tyler. I am currently a senior in Marine and Desert Bio at Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas. My question is can anything actually live in this "plastic ocean"? If so what animal or plant matter is it?

A: Everything that lived in the oceans before plastic, is still there today, but populations of many marine organisms are declining rapidly, especially cetaceans. Plastic makes life more difficult for the things that live there. We’re finding more plastic ingested by marine life. 44% of seabird species either ingest or are entangled by plastic, 22 cetaceans, all sea turtle species, and a long list of fish.

But remember, when we talk about a plastic ocean, we’re talking about a soup, not an island of trash. Imagine a handful of plastic confetti spread over a football field. That’s pretty much how thick it gets. Or imagine the worlds largest oil spill dispersed over the planet, with a cup of oil over every square mile. If you look at it that way you begin to understand that it’s impossible to clean up.

Q: Faith Lutheran Las Vegas, Nevada, USA 12th Grade What has been the most recent astounding discovery on your vessel?

A: Well, the eastern Indian Ocean is cleaner that any other place I’ve trawled before. We expected that. But we’re still finding some plastic. We expect to find the most at a point 300 kilometers south of Mauritius. We also plan to look inside the stomachs of fish we catch in our trawls. So, stay tuned.

Q: Hi Hows the trip? After all the studies what do you think about Darwin's theory? –Cody

A: Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is as solid as the theory of gravity. Life evolved on this planet. That’s a fact. How it happened is explained by natural selection. This vessel, the Stad Amsterdam, is repeating that voyage. What we’re learning is that the world has changed. Darwin discovered a world exploding in biodiversity. Now we see a world of biodiversity shrinking. We are experiencing an extinction event that rivals what happened to the dinosaurs. Think about it, with 6.5 billion people on the planet consuming land, food and water, and all the transportation, industry, and war that we do, it’s going to take a lot of work to make our planet livable in the future. This is why conservation and human rights are so important. What is your contribution to the cause?

Q: Faith Lutheran High School Las Vegas, NV 12th grade Robert What is the coolest thing you've ever witnessed while at sea?

A: 40ft waves and 60 knot winds is quite impressive. But when I sailed my plastic bottle raft across the Pacific Ocean in 2008 ( I witnessed a small fish the size of my shoe with 17 particles of plastic in its stomach. Check out the Junkraft website and look for the video titled “Plastic Sushi”.

Q: Hello there mates. I am Tyler from Faith Lutheran High School located in the world famous city of Las Vegas, Nevada. What do you consider the biggest danger to the ocean? And what is the best way to get this critical information out to the world so it can be taken seriously? Oh and what do you do to entertain yourselves for the long voyage?

A: First, why is Las Vegas world famous? What’s dangerous here? If you fall overboard you will likely never be found. That’s probably not a fun way to die. How do we entertain ourselves? Music, read, sing when no one is listening, or just practice sitting quietly and pay attention to the world around you. The best way to get the information out there and be taken seriously is to do good scientific work. That gets published in a peer-reviewed journal. Peer-review means that other scientist critique your research paper before it gets published in the journal. If you get your work published, then people, organizations and lawmakers take you seriously.

NOTE: From now on ONLY questions with school name and location will be considered- make sure you follow the directions provided!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your guys are the best. If only other people care as much as you guys cared we would not have this problem. Keep up the good work and I hope you make it back alright.
Lanwndale High School
10th grade