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In Collaboration with: Project Kaisei

project kaisei


Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition

Seeking the Science of the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch


On Aug. 11, while deployed in a small boat, SEAPLEX researchers encountered a large ghost net with tangled rope, net, plastic, and various biological organisms. Matt Durham (right) is pictured with Miriam Goldstein.

Welcome to our web expedition!

The Mission

A thousand miles off California, the North Pacific Ocean Gyre contains one of the largest ecosystems on Earth--but it may be in danger from a deluge of accumulated plastic trash. Dubbed the "Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch," the debris at the center of the North Pacific Ocean has the potential to damage marine life and alter the biological environment. Though this issue has recently received popular media attention, there was little scientific information available on the composition, extent, and effects of the debris. The small pieces of plastic that make up most of the material are not detectable by satellites or airplanes. Researchers requiring detailed scientific sampling must use ships capable of traveling to this remote region.

From August 2-21, 2009, a group of doctoral students and research volunteers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego embarked on an expedition aboard the Scripps research vessel New Horizon exploring the problem of plastic in the North Pacific Gyre. The Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX) focused on a suite of critical scientific questions. How much plastic is accumulating, how is it distributed, and how is it affecting ocean life? With their new results the researchers hope to provide critical, timely data to policy makers and combine Scripps' long tradition of Pacific exploration with focus on a new and pressing environmental problem.

SEAPLEX was supported by UC Ship Funds, Project Kaisei, and the National Science Foundation.

Scripps Contacts

Mario Aguilera or Annie Reisewitz
Tel. 858-534-3624