Updated: Aug 14, 2018
AUSMAP is digging deep into Sydney's harbour beaches!
Visited by keen swimmers who have jumped off yachts and by locals who want a quiet place to relax, Athol Beach is a small hidden gem with spectacular views of Sydney Harbour. It is also receiving more than its fair share of microplastic pollution.
Students from James Busby High School have been tasked to investigate the secrets in the sand at Athol Beach and draw some conclusions about the implications for Sydney's water and wildlife.
Run by Observatory Hill Environmental Education Centre (EEC) the fieldwork was part of the Stage 5 geography program, called Environmental Change and Management. In the program, students learn about environmental issues relating to marine ecosystems, what has caused these problems, the consequences and the extent of their impact.
As James Busby High School decided to focus on microplastics for their program, the EEC enlisted the help of AUSMAP, so we sent our research scientist, Dr Scott Wilson to help facilitate the fieldwork.
Following a talk by Dr Scott Wilson on where microplastics come from and the problems they cause, the students rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
Some students even found bits of hard plastics without sieving. Most microplastics are brightly coloured making them easily identifiable. The beach was scattered with blue bits of hard plastic that resemble cog pieces from toys.
After the microplastic sorting was finished and the data was recorded, the fieldwork ended with Dr Scott Wilson giving a debrief, prompting students to be less reliant on single-use plastics, and encouraging them to spread the word about the enormous impact plastic has on our oceans.
Students from James Busby High School had learnt a great deal about microplastics from their field trip and the data they have collected will make an important contribution to AUSMAP and community understanding of the impact of plastics in Australia's oceans.
Written by: Naomi Huynh (volunteer of AUSMAP)
Photos: Dr Scott Wilson