Last summer I was part of a research expedition sailing around the UK sampling for micro plastics. During the trip we visited the capital ports of the UK doing outreach work with the public - I use plastic marine litter as an art resource with young people to encourage conversations about single use plastics. In Edinburgh we had access to two labs and their micro scopes enabling me to photograph micro plastics.
I want to continue with this research work by canoeing the North West canal system, picking up litter and taking water samples to look for micro plastics. I have already started near to my home in Macclesfield, picking up litter, and developing my own protocol to collect and analyse the micro plastics.
I am in contact with several researchers working with micro plastics, in Plymouth and Heriot Watt universities, the latter having kindly donated me a smartphone desktop microscope. My intention is to travel extensively in the canal system of Cheshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester, contributing my data to the global plastic litter map. This data may also help identify where this litter comes from to enable local communities to tackle the issue. Marine, river and domestic waters are already being researched for micro plastics, but not the canal system to my knowledge. Our canals are fed by run offs from the neighbouring environment and although canal water is not part of of our agriculture or aquaculture, eventually like all water sources, they do run into the sea.
As a keen outdoors person, my intention is to take camping gear and water collection analysing equipment with me, doing the science as I go. A natural networker, I will be speaking to the public en route, keeping a blog and updating on social media. I already have several people who are committed to making small monthly donations to pay for my food etc. As a scientist and artist, and competent writer, I will also be writing for magazines etc - 2 articles already published.
Funded by Liverpool (June 2018)