Over the course of three days in early February, 5 Gyres scientist Marcus Ericksen hosted a conference at the Cape Eleuthera Institute for educators on the impact of marine plastic pollution. Eriksen gave presentations detailing voyages to these gyres to study their makeup and movement. His passion inspired CEI’s Kristal Ambrose to action. Motivated by the dilemma of plastic marine debris in the local waters of the Exuma sound and oceans around the world, Kristal pursued an opportunity of a lifetime.
The CEI aquaponics intern decided she wanted to accompany him on one of his voyages. Following a series of fortunate events Ambrose got her chance. Thanks to efforts on her part to secure funding and support from Chris and Pam Maxey, Christian Henry, Josh Shultz , Annabelle Brooks, The Nature Conservancy, and Bobbie Hallig, she will be headed to the Marshall Islands to begin her Journey. Then, from May 1-23, Kristal will be joining Marcus Eriksen and his team on a research expedition to sail across the pacific ocean from Majuro, Marshall Islands to Tokyo, Japan to study the Japan Tsunami Debris.

Organized by the 5 Gyres Institute, Algalita Marine Research Foundation, and Pangea Exploration, the expedition seeks to answer questions that explore what happens to plastic that enters the ocean, from ingestion by marine life, to absorption of harmful pollutants. Kristal’s goal from this experience is to return to Eleuthera and begin to find real solutions through research, education and outreach projects.

Kristal plans to return to The Island School and spearhead a project that examines how to better reutilize plastic waste, for example exploring it as an alternative source for building material. One such nascent venture focuses on constructing a green building from reclaimed plastics. Another project seeks to convert the petroleum-based plastic debris back into crude oil for diesel fuel or gasoline.

Other issues Kristal plans tackle while on this expedition is how a person might become less dependent on plastic. Questions such as: “What are the extra steps we need to unlearn our dependence on plastic?” and “How do we carry this message to wider audiences on Eleuthera, in The Bahamas as a whole, and around the world?”

This trip will make Kristal is one of the first people in The Bahamas to delve deeper into research in this area. By embarking on this eye-opening excursion, Kristal is taking a giant step towards bringing home a unique perspective on plastics pollution. WIth it she stands to make real changes that will reinvent the future of dealing with plastics in The Bahamas.

Be sure to keep up with Kristal’s journey on her personal blog!