But the publication of the paper wasn’t the end of the study. Having collected almost one year’s worth of scientific samples varying in abundance and characteristics (polymer, shape, colour, origin), Sanchez-Vidal and her team continue to sample beaches around Barcelona every week.
“We have been sampling before and after the occurrence of a major storm that hit the Catalan coast this last January. The storm – called Gloria – triggered maximum wave heights of 14 m, large floods and strong erosion on land, and washed ashore huge amounts of plastic waste (perfectly preserved plastic litter 50 years old was found in beaches, referred to as “Gaia’s revenge”),” she says, adding that “results will provide important information on microplastic transport and accumulation when this land-to-sea transfer of plastic litter (in both directions!) occurs as its maximum intensity.”
Although the project is currently run in Barcelona, Sanchez-Vidal says that, for those who wish to participate somehow, “it’s just about building a trawl and getting in touch with any university or research centre nearby working on microplastics. They will coordinate sampling and provide instructions on how to proceed to gather scientifically reliable data.”
In essence, the results prove that paddle surfers can effectively collect microplastic samples in nearshore areas for scientific analysis when equipped with the proposed paddle trawl. But Sanchez-Vidal is confident there is much more to it: “This citizen science initiative overcomes the high costs of oceanographic sampling, and at the same time allows enhanced spatial and temporal resolution of plastic pollution monitoring. This cooperation provides extraordinary benefits for science, citizen scientists, and society in general!”
The author and Surf Simply would like to thank Anna Sanchez-Vidal of University Barcelona and Vanessa Sarah Salvo, Scientific Director at Posidonia Green Project for their assistance with the article and providing the images.