Research stay with the Center for Marine Debris Research

Research stay with the Center for Marine Debris Research
Marthe with new collegues from CMDR

During the fall semester of 2022, Marthe Høiberg got the opportunity to do a research stay with the Center for Marine Debris Research (CMDR) on Oahu, Hawai'i. The research center is part of Hawai'i Pacific University (HPU) and they conduct interdisciplinary research on plastic pollution in the field and their labs. As such, to be hosted by CMDR was an excellent opportunity for me to get a more hands on understanding of local impacts of plastic pollution.

As a group of islands situated downstream from the great pacific garbage patch, Hawai'i receives a lot of bouyant plastic debris that have potentially travelled the world before washing up on the local reefs and beaches. Environmental problems related to marine ecosystems also appear to be even more pressing and in focus in a place where the ocean is such a direct part of everyday life, both for leisure and subsistence. Prior to the visit, I had read research papers on plastic debris entanglement of Hawaiian monk seals and the green sea turtles so getting to meet with the researchers that gather this data in the field was a highlight. Specifically, the goal of the research stay was to investigate the issue of sea turtles getting entangled in discarded or lost fishing line. Related to this project, I got to meet with people from organizations such as Hawaii Marine Animal Response (HMAR), and the Marine Institute of Maui Ocean Center (MOCMI) who respond to calls from the public about entangled wildlife. Through these connections and by witnessing entanglement injuries and the debris that causes them, I've gained a better understanding of the nature of this issue, which I had only studied in the literature prior to the visit.

Plastic debris in the form of bottles, fishing net and floating fragments

During my stay, I also had the chance to learn about the ongoing research at CMDR by joining in on activities ranging from sea turtle necropsies in the lab to international workshops on fishing gear and plastic debris field sampling on beaches. As the issue of plastic pollution is so well known on Hawai'i, it was also not hard to find beach cleanups and other community events for raising awareness on plastic impacts to join outside of the office.

This was the second time an ATLANTIS member went to Hawai'i for a research visit - Read about Francesca Verones' stay in this blogpost.