Awareness has been increasing on the effects that our society has on the Earth, notably there has been a push for understanding the quantity of microplastics we have in our oceans and categorising the plastics. However, other ecosystems on Earth are contaminated with microplastics. This study aims to investigate Microplastics in deserts and if microplastics are being transported by wind currents. Our first sampling campaign will be in the Utah dsert during a Mars simulation camp.
In March 2018m winds from the Sahara covered areas in Eastern Europe, bringing with it sand and potential microplastics. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43533804 The full effect that microplastics have on health is still under investigation. These small particles have the potential to travel deep into our lungs and cause respiratory issues, even passing into the bloodstream and cause cardiovascular diseases. In addition, airborne microplastics can become contaminated with bacteria.
During May 2019, a planned expedition to collect sand samples is to take place in an area of privately owned desert in Utah, as part of the Mars Desert Research Station. This area has minimal human interaction and therefore is an ideal area to show microplastics deposits most likely by wind, rather than human interaction. The collection of sand and the microplastics separation will be documented by blogs and videos to help communicate awareness.
With the help of ISMAR (the Marine Biology Lab of CNR, Italy, specialised in microplastics analysis) and Plymouth University, the sand and microplastics will be separated, with the intention of evaluating how much microplastics are being deposited in other ecosystems other than the ocean. This will contribute to increasing the knowledge on the problem, evaluating the impact on the environment and promote awareness showing how the issue is global and not restricted to coastal areas.
This project has provided additional documentation in a PDF file (projdoc.pdf).