Right now, I’m at the core of the sampling campaign. After a few sampling tests, I have finally managed to start the official samplings. I’m so excited!!!
Today, 12th of September, is my birthday, and I went out to the sea for another fantastic sampling day with my colleague Dr. Bracchetti Luca and the captain of the boat, Raffaele Perrotta. I couldn’t have received a better gift!
Numbers of cassiopea jellyfish and barrel jellyfish kept me company during the microplastic trawling which was so amazing!
The sampling sites this time have been near the coast in front of San Benedetto del Tronto. As usual my colleague and I prepared the manta while the captain brought us to the sampling station following the GPS indication. Once we arrived, I threw the manta net out of the boat and press the countdown button! The manta is towed at the surface of sea water for 20 minutes, at a speed of 2 knot. At the ring of the alarm, the captain stopped the boat and my colleague and I started to collect the samples. The same procedure we repeat for another 2 times. After that we used the same approach for another sampling station, a bit further from the coast then the previous.
During the way back to the harbour, the crew and I came across in a lot of wastes in the sea….so not only microplastic collection, but also macro-trash collection!
It was also interesting sampling at the Tronto river. Indeed, I wanted to see what the microplastic abundance situation is at the mouth of this local river, considering that most of the micro-particles in the sea come from streams, discharges and big rivers. Tronto river lays between Marche Region (my region) and Abruzzo Region, and the Marche bank is part of the Sentina Reservation. The Reservation is an oasis and a stepping stone for many migratory birds. Indeed I was surrounded by lots of beautiful egrets.
The sampling plan (a bit different from the common sea surface sampling) was based on fixing the microplastic net in the middle of the main flux of the river with this the surface river water enters inside.
With the help of Dr. Bracchetti Luca and Dr. Cocci Paolo, the two collaborators of my project, I sampled for half an hour. The sample was stored in the appropriate container and then analysed at the microscope.
SAMPLE PROCESSING IN THE LAB
Once back in the lab, the collected samples have been analysed through the microscope and sorted out based on their dimensions: particles smaller then 5mm stored as “microplastics” and particles larger then 5mm stored as “macroplastics”.
Sometimes this kind of work is very long…in particular when a great quantity of material is present. Indeed it is necessary to separate the plankton and organic part from the plastic part. Unexpectedly, very few particles were detected, suggesting to us that we repeat the sampling in other period of the year.