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Training for the Expedition - Beach Plastics

In preparation for the 2023 Expedition research in plastic pollution, expedition members Joe Cox and Henry Staley travelled to Tromsø, Norway to attend a training course provided by SALT, the independent research and advisory company specializing in marine pollution, marine management, and coastal development.

The course began at the Fram Centre, an institution dedicated to climate and environmental studies providing state-of-the-art research facilities, laboratories, lecture theatres, and seminar rooms, and the ideal setting for an immersive learning experience.

Under the guidance of SALT's expert instructors, the training commenced with an introduction to the software and sampling procedures designed for gathering quantitative data on marine litter and then moved on to carrying out practical training exercises both in the laboratory and the field. Valuable insights were gained into assessing factors such as item identity, condition, and weight as well as meticulous recording of additional information from any items with discernible labels including such as country of origin and date of manufacture.

Joe comments “It was fascinating to observe the diverse origins of the bottles we examined, coming from all over the globe including Norway, Russia, China, and America”.

The training continued with a field trip to a beach situated an hour away from Tromsø. Joe continued “The scenic drive took us through the mountains, meandering around the coastline and when we arrived at the destination, there was a 20 minute walk to the beach. At first glance you would not think there would be any litter, with white sands and crystal blue clear waters”.

Soon, putting into practice the techniques they’d been taught in the laboratory, it became very apparent the sheer volume of marine litter that the beach contained. They found items ranging from shoes, fishing nets, plastic bottles, ropes, chemical containers, to even a toothbrush. All were meticulously catalogued and assessed following the techniques they’d been taught. Within just two hours of collecting, sorting, and analysing they had together amassed four sizable bags filled with marine waste.

This trip was Joe’s first time in Tromsø and experiencing 24 hours of daylight. Joe noted “It had an affect where it made you feel awake and not get tired. As we only had a short time in Tromsø, Henry and I decided to make the most of the 24 hours of day light and explore the city and the surrounding landscape. We went for a hike after dinner ascending one of the nearby mountains”.

Joe continued “When we summited the mountain, we were up just in time to see the midnight sun. The views from the top were breath taking. We were pleasantly surprised to discover numerous locals hiking the mountainside at the same time as we were, a testament to the city's vibrant spirit”. Henry noted “Upon our descent and re-entry into the suburbs of Tromsø, we were amused by a resident diligently mowing their lawn at the odd hour of 02:30 in the morning.

Henry commented “This has proved to be an invaluable opportunity, equipping us both with the necessary skills in preparation for the forthcoming ARG 2023 Expedition and our engagement in marine litter research in association with SALT”.

Huge thanks to the SALT organisation and the trainers, Jannike Falk-Anderrson and Marthe Larsen Haarr, who worked with Henry and Joe to ensure that the research project will be able to deliver high quality field work and add significant new data to help in the understanding and tackling of global plastic pollution.

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