As of late Theresa and I have been enjoying exploring the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It’s staggering just how much there is to see hidden away in this wilderness area. And, for me at least, it has such a remote feeling once you turn off the pavement. It’s no exaggeration to say there are hundreds of miles of double tracks to follow with not a soul in sight. Earlier in the summer I had been hopeful to get up to Spirit Lake to see this unique ecosystem that had made such a remarkable and surprising comeback since the devastating eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980. However, we were turned back due to road closure. While waiting for the road to reopen I contact ASC to coordinate taking water samples for the Microplastics Project.
Adventure Scientist for Conservation
ASC was founded by Gregg Treinish (Named National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year in 2008) in 2011 in an effort to given those of us involved with adventure and the outdoors a purpose beyond just the enjoyment of the being in the outdoors.
We equip partners with data collected from the outdoors that are crucial to unlocking solutions to the world’s environmental challenges.
Data collection in the field and can be both time consuming and expensive as well as take away from time spent in the lab for mainstream scientist. ASC resolves this by recruiting, training and managing individuals with strong outdoor skills—such as mountaineering, diving or kayaking—we bring back hard-to-attain data from the far corners of the globe or sometimes our backyard.
Anyone with a passion for the outdoors and a desire to help and inquire about joining and I’d recommend that if do so. Click here for more information..
Microplastics—or plastic particles smaller than five millimeters in size–likely pose a massive environmental and human health risk when they enter our waterways. Toxins including DDT and BPA adhere to the particles, and then enter the food chain when ingested by aquatic life, accumulating in birds, fish, marine mammals and potentially humans.
Microplastics have several sources: They’re laundered from nylon clothing; they wash down the drain with many cosmetics and toothpastes; and they weather from debris like bottles and bags. ASC’s microplastics scientist has found microplastics in the vast majority of marine samples we’ve collected, from places including Maine, Alaska, Argentina, Thailand and Antarctica. We expanded our research to fresh water in early 2015 to further identify the inputs of this pollution.
So, with sampling bottles stowed away in the pack and fresh batteries in the digital thermometer, Theresa and I headed down the Harmony trail towards the shoreline of Spirit Lake. The lake sits at an altitude of approximately 4000’ and fore someone who has spent his life at sea level even this small gain in altitude was noticeable.
The first thing that caught my eye was the huge amount of logs floating in the lake and piled on the shoreline. Stark reminders of the incredible blast St. Helens unleashed on this area. The next thing I noticed that this was the only shoreline I’ve seen that was littered with some reminiscences of man’s trash. There wasn’t a piece of debris to be seen. I guess I shouldn’t be surprise, but having seen so much along such remote coastal beaches I somehow expected something would be here as well.
We collect the samples following the protocol for rinsing the bottle and capping underwater. Then using the new smartphone application, which is certainly a nice touch, we recorded all the data asked for. Things like water temperature, approximate depth of water, type of bottom etc. The application even allows you to take photos of the area and sample bottle.
All of this data was uploaded to their server once we were back in cellphone range and the samples have been sent to Abigail Barrows, lead scientist on the project. I should have the results in a few weeks and will post them here.
Stay tune and feel free to ask any questions or share your citizen science experiences in the comments below.