CSU Voices and Views

Posts tagged with COAST

Plastic Soup

By Chelsea M. Rochman
Ph.D. Student in Marine Ecology/ Ecotoxicology
San Diego State University/ UC Davis

Note: On January 25, 2011, the CSU Council on Ocean Affairs, Science and Technology (COAST) held its inaugural student-research showcase, with student researchers and faculty mentors discussing their work with CSU trustees and campus presidents.  Chelsea Rochman took part in the showcase, sharing her research into the toxicological effects of plastic in the ocean.  Rochman is one of about 20 students in the Marine Ecology/ Ecotoxicology Ph.D. program offered jointly by San Diego State and UC Davis.  Students receive advising from faculty at both universities.  The students’ research facilities are located on the San Diego campus.

Rochman skims a net along the water surface to pull samples from an oceanic gyre.

Rochman skims a net along the water surface to pull samples from an oceanic gyre.

It is predicted that more than 300 million tons of plastic were produced worldwide last year, and plastic production consumed 8 percent of global oil production.  Much of this plastic, such as bags, plates and cups, has a useful lifetime of seconds, minutes or hours.  Once discarded, it is easy to forget these items.  Yet, disposable plastics can persist in the environment for hundreds, thousands or even millions of years.

This disconnected reality of society and our waste is what led me to join two expeditions to oceanic gyres, or areas in the water where the currents form circular patterns.  Some of these gyres have earned an unfortunate nickname “garbage patch,” famous for confetti-like plastic debris no larger than a pencil eraser with sporadic larger pieces here and there.

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Gulf Recovery in Murky Waters

By Sean Anderson
Assistant Professor
Environmental Science and Resource Management
California State University, Channel Islands

CSUCI Assistant Professor Sean Anderson stands in the marshes of Louisiana.

CSUCI Assistant Professor Sean Anderson stands in the marshes of Louisiana.

Soon, my CSUCI students and I will return to Louisiana to continue wetland restoration and community service that we began along the Gulf Coast in the immediate wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  For the past five years, our restoration efforts and research have focused on the bottomland hardwood forest in Plaquemines Parish.  When in Louisiana, my students spend about half their days working on wetland restoration and half on building sustainable food systems and community food gardens in and around New Orleans.

In the still unfolding aftermath of BP’s catastrophic Deep Horizon oil spill, we’re not sure what to expect this coming year.  Anytime oil and seawater combine in large quantities, there are immediate and long-term political, economic, social, natural and scientific consequences. 

Simple questions – like “How much oil spilled into the gulf?” – get murky in a hurry.
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