A PhD student at The University of Western Australia is working on an ambitious project. Julia Reisser, who has studied sea turtles for the last nine years, wants to create the first map that shows distribution of floating marine plastics in Australian waters. That map will be overlapped with information about pathways of sea turtle hatchlings, and hopefully will shed light on where the most dangerous areas for growing sea turtles may exist.
"The early life of sea turtles occurs at the ocean's surface, where there's an increasing amount of floating plastics that are proving fatal to hatchlings," PhD student Julia Reisser says in an article from University of Western Australia. "My work is identifying the places contributing most to the increase in plastics in Australia's oceans and how this links to sea turtle life cycles."
The problem of plastic pollution in our oceans cannot be understated. Many marine species mistake the plastic for food, which can be lethal. As you can see, a bit of floating plastic could look a lot like these jellyfish a Green sea turtle is munching on:
Mistaking plastics for food has devastating consequences, causing internal damage or starvation:
The idea of creating a map of floating plastic is exciting, but also extremely challenging. One of the biggest issues behind marine plastic pollution is that it is extremely hard to quantify and understand because the ocean is so vast and forever moving, carrying plastics with it. Luckily, though, researchers like Reisser are not giving up, and her research could mean a lot of saving sea turtles. Six of the seven sea turtle species on earth are listed as threatened or endangered, so the more we can do to help hatchlings reach adulthood, the better.