Scientists to study micro-plastics across the polar ice cap

Ice bergs in the Arctic Sea.

A Strathclyde PhD student is part of a team that will examine the extent of micro-plastic pollution in the Arctic.

Steve Allen, from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering working under the guidance of Professor Vernon Phoenix, and a Research Assistant at the University of Toulouse, will analyse ice samples to ascertain their microplastic content.

The samples will be obtained by ‘La Voie du Pôle’ expedition, a three-man team led by explorer Sébastien Roubinet which is attempting to be the first yacht to sail across the Arctic Ocean.

Scientific enquiry

In the tradition of early explorers, scientific enquiry forms a large part of the expedition and the team will gather ice samples as they traverse the pole.

The researchers are interested in cryoconite – dust which is believed to be hastening the speed of the melting of the ice cap, mercury and micro-plastic.

Mr Allen said: “Recent research is showing large amounts of plastics in the pack ice around the Arctic plateau and as a next step in understanding the extent of this pollution, the crew of La Voie Du Pôle expedition will be taking samples along their route.

This will provide us with a wealth of knowledge on how micro-plastics move and help forecast future problems.”

Dr Roman Teisserenc, the chief scientist for the expedition and researcher from Toulouse INP, said: “Until now, the Arctic Ocean has been observed from a distance by satellites. One of the unique aspects of this mission is the use of a hybrid yacht that can move across the ice just as well as it can the water. This will allow us to take samples never available before and provide unique measurement opportunities.

“The expedition will show that no place on the planet escapes the pollution created by mankind – including, we believe, micro-plastics and mercury.”

The team analysing the samples also includes post-doctoral researchers Dr Deonie Allen and Dr Ramya Bala Prabhakaran at Toulouse INP.