Friday May 16th
by Sarah Halperin, UM senior
If you read the first post, you will have noticed that while we were excited to be out in the field investigating plastic in the Great Lakes, our stomachs could have used a break. Luckily, we got just what we wished for! Friday was a beautiful day to be out on Lake St. Clair. The sea state was zero and there was not a wave in sight. A little on the colder side, but as long as the sun was shining there was nothing that could upset us. With a calmer sea state we were collecting even more samples of microplastic. There was plenty of plastic to culture, to sequence, and to put under an electron microscope.
We successfully completed our first hour-long trawl yielding excellent samples for toxin testing. The second trawl was only for 20 minutes, but in some ways it was much more exciting. Melissa was sifting through the debris looking for pieces of plastic, Rachel was cleaning the metal trays, Greg was filtering water samples, and Sarah was doing odd jobs when Melissa screamed, “I found a Nurdle, I found a Nurdle!” With equal excitement Sarah responsed “Where! You found a turtle, really?!?” Everyone saw how she could have mistaken nurdle for turtle, but all rolled their eyes thinking why would we ever find a turtle. While, nurdles are a little less exciting to the average person, to a person studying plastics they are incredible. They are small microbeads of plastics that are melted into molds. As plastics go they are pretty cute, but not as cute as a turtle.
The rest of the day was normal and uneventful. Until one of our ropes snapped twisting the manta net upside down, plunging it underwater. It quickly began to sink and fall under the boat. With cries to Dave to turn the boat port side we were able to save it from its impending doom and learned what happens when the manta net is upside down. As scientist’s speculation is not enough, we had to test it out. Hopefully the next time we test something out it won’t give us a heart attack. Either way we learned what happens when the manta net is upside down.
With six twenty-minute trawls completed and an hour trawl, we headed back home. The ride was just long enough to squeeze in a nap and dream about catching a turtle.