We know that plastic waste is found everywhere in the marine environment. At the same time, we still know too little about geographical distribution and sources, the effects of plastics on the ecosystem and which methods work best for identifying and measuring plastic pollution.
The Arctic Ocean and adjacent sea areas are connected to the Fram Strait and the Bering Strait, and via the Straits, marine plastic comes from the south to the Arctic. In order to find solutions that can reduce plastic pollution in the Arctic, knowledge of local sources in the Arctic is just as important as an understanding of the transport routes from more densely populated areas further south.
Research collaboration and teaching
Through cooperation with Chinese and American research groups, we have increased our knowledge of plastic emissions. At the same time, we share state-of-the-art methodology with researchers from these countries. Trips in the field, development of master's courses and joint seminars in Norway and China have contributed to a harmonized knowledge transfer and formed strong ties between the research groups.
In 2019 and 2020, we conducted field stays in Svalbard for Chinese students and researchers, and a winter school for Norwegian and Chinese students in China. Experts from the US, Norway and China also took part. In the summer of 2020, the summer school was conducted virtually. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been very active: We have conducted a virtual all-day workshop with presentations from Norwegian and Chinese students, contributed several lectures at the International Symposium on Plastics in the Arctic in Iceland in March 2021, as well as organized norwegian seminar on microplastics: Current knowledge status on sources, effects and risk. In June 2021, we carried out a dedicated Plastics expedition in Arctic waters, under the auspices of the Norwegian Polar Institute. Several project participants helped develop and teach methods for sampling air, snow, sea ice and water during the entire project period. But with a lack of data on sources, emission sizes and exposures throughout the marine ecosystem, there are still many unanswered questions.
Three and four master's students completed their assignments at UiT in 2020 and 2021, with additional starting in 2021. At TU, three masterstudents finished their work with the period of the project whith one PhD student about to finish his thesis summer 2022. The master's course at the Department of Arctic Marine Biology at UiT has been conducted for three years, and has reached more than 100 students.
Products and publications
New plastic-free air samplers for both passive and active sampling have been designed and manufactured by NILU. These were adopted during the Plasttoktet in 2021, and have also been sent to China. The first results from there are expected in autumn 2022. The samplers were also placed at the Zeppelin Observatory in Ny-Ålesund in the autumn of 2021, with the first results expected in the winter of 2021/22.
We have established collaborative projects with two new European research groups from JPI Ocean, and the knowledge from there was immediately used in the teaching (ANDROEMDA and FACTS).
In addition, we actively contributed to a number of scientific publications and reports related to plastic research and monitoring. The evaluation of additives related to plastic particles, such as persistent organic pollutants under the Stockholm Convention, was also actively supported by us.
Throughout the project period, we have participated in the NFR's calls for proposals. The SFF call for plastic-related applications included, for example, several project participants from PlastPoll. The Polar Institute and NILU led the Fram Centre's research program "Plastics in the Arctic" from 2019-2021, a direct result of the PlastPoll collaboration.
We conducted field stays in Svalbard for Chinese students and researchers, and a summer- and winter school in Norway and China. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been very active. In June 2021, we carried out a dedicated Plastics expedition in Arctic waters, under the auspices of the Norwegian Polar Institute. Several project participants helped develop and teach methods for sampling air, snow, sea ice and water during the entire project period. We have established collaborative projects with two new European research groups from JPI Ocean, and the knowledge from there was immediately used in the teaching (ANDROEMDA and FACTS).
In addition, we actively contributed to a number of scientific publications and reports related to plastic research and monitoring. Throughout the project period, we have participated in the NFR's calls for proposals to ensure the prolongation of the fruitful collaboration, being successful with the funding of 5 new years in PlastPoll2021.
Being a fast developing field of research of increasing complexity, education on the impact and fate of MP pollution is lacking behind both in teaching, state-of-the art research as well as methodology. An overall goal is to train students in combining theoretical, experimental and field approaches for an excellent and sound scientific understanding of relevant processes and observations while at the same time contributing to the understanding of the fate and impact of MPs in the environment by developing this new emerging field of research on a global scale together. An invaluable added value to the underlying JPI projects PLASTOX and BASEMAN will result in the evolution from the European to global scale as well as to broaden the scope from marine to also terrestrial MP pollution. A strong interaction between not only the supervisors, but also the students will be both encouraged and facilitated by exchange visits, webinars and winter-/ summer schools. We will additionally offer master student projects in all three locations, which will create additional opportunities for students to participate in specific parts of this project. At the same time, the exchange of experts will ensure the direct transfer of recent knowledge and understanding as well as help to develop a strong consortium, leading on global research of MP in the environment. The unique combination of participating research institutions (NILU, NPI) and universities (UiT, UCB, TU) is complementary in scientific quality, academic programs, experience and qualification. Our collaborative educational project combines experienced scientists and educators (from different relevant disciplines), in an innovative project addressing the urgent need of knowledge on how MP move in the environment, harm organisms and how possible remediation actions can be designed.