The Floating Foundation’s Mobile Research Platform: A Primer on Micro-Plastics

Sep 1, 2017 | BY Chris Couve

From India’s Ganges River to the blue waves of Hawaii, the versatility of stand up paddleboarding helps people experience waves and water like never before. The team at the Floating Foundation exemplifies the pursuit of innovation by pioneering new frontiers in science with the help of SUP. The Floating Foundation was founded by Craig Koning in 2014, with the vision to engage with and positively impact the environments and peoples of the South Pacific. The action takes place on a mobile off-shore research laboratory, the sailing vessel “Infinity”, where the Floating Foundation’s crew conducts microplastic debris research led by University of Auckland Ph.D candidate Ana Markic in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

When Ana Markic began her research she had a hunch she would find disturbing amounts of micro-plastic pollutants in fish guts. She had read a series of similar published studies with alarming results – many fish species in regions throughout the globe contained micro-plastic pollutants. She set out to fill the research gap in the South Pacific region and found that 33 out of 34 commercial fish species commonly consumed in the Pacific Islands contained micro-plastic debris in their digestive system.

 

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Ana and the Floating Foundation research volunteer team are collecting samples throughout the Vava’u region of Tonga and analyzing them for evidence of microplastics. The Infinity Expedition is fully equipped – complete with Starboard Stand up Paddleboards – with the tools to collect surface, seafloor, and coastal samples. They can also analyze these samples as soon as they’re collected. Ana and the Floating Foundation team are actively reworking the way that micro-plastics are collected and analysed, so that future oceanic analyses do not underestimate the amounts of plastics and pollutants that exist. The 2017 Floating Foundation Expedition has allowed this research to include areas containing tropical fish habitats within the Pacific Island region – an area where field and lab equipment, including chemicals, are expensive and limited. Ana’s new methods are more affordable and are based on local resources which should make replicating and expanding this study easily achievable.

Ana and the Floating Foundation expect the new methods to improve the accuracy and ease of implementation of micro-plastics research. Coherent results across the Pacific region could lead to improved international legislation surrounding the distribution and handling of common and harmful plastics.

 

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The Floating Foundation crew uses Starboard SUPs every day to move around and explore the Vava’u region of Tonga. In addition to helping provide perspective for research and accessibility for sampling, spending time paddling provides the crew with the opportunity for little moments of escape from intensive research – the perfect way to unwind after a long day!

Starboard is stoked to support the Floating Foundation and their crusade to demonstrate the harm of Microplastics. We are working on eliminating plastic from our own product lines and advocating for marine plastic mitigation globally. We encourage you to avoid the use of microplastics and do your part to clean up your local waters every time you go for a paddle to support the Floating Foundation, Starboard, and the oceans that provide life to us all!

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