Long before litter was present in our oceans, small marine organisms lived and traveled on floating objects such as small wood logs, pumice, seeds and even other marine animals. These ocean travelers are called epibionts. Although epibionts have long existed in these natural habitats, all of these habitats were temporary (they decayed or died). However, with the invention of plastics and other man-made materials, there are now artificial habitats for epibionts that can persist for long periods of time on the sea surface. In these pieces of marine debris, epibionts can stay in the ocean longer and travel farther. It is even possible for epibionts found in marine litter to travel to new continents and potentially become invasive species.
Given the above, investigating litter as a vehicle for epibionts is very important. This is why this 2022 the I International Ocean Travelers Sampling will take place. This sampling aims to better understand the origins, abundances and which epibionts travel in marine litter in hopes of preserving and protecting local marine communities.
This project is a collaborative effort of researchers from multiple institutions interested in marine life and marine debris. We value international collaboration and citizen participation in this issue, we want to collect data from around the world and we need your help!
A Special SciStarter Invitation
Create your free Science Near Me account to find local science festivals, events, talks and more!