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  • Writer's pictureKarly McMullen

Mother-Daughter Duo Test Community Science Toolkit for Reliable Microplastic Data Collection

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

Glenys and Taya Holmes are a mother-daughter microplastic pollution tackling team!

Bothered by the presence of plastic on their favourite beaches and keen for family time in an “outdoor lab”, Glenys and Taya volunteered with Ocean Diagnostics as community scientists. They tested tools and protocols that are now available to be used by the global public to contribute local microplastic data that can inform solutions.

The duo tested Ocean Diagnostics’ new Community Science Toolkit and collected microplastic samples on beaches in Greater Victoria. Along with other volunteers, their work formed the basis of the recently released microplastics dataset for Vancouver Island beaches. The data they collected is key to understanding what microplastic pollution exists locally, so policy makers can stop it at the source.

Growing up within a short distance from the ocean, Glenys and Taya always enjoyed activities on the water: paddle boarding, kayaking, camping, you name it! They sometimes came across plastic pollution but were not overly familiar with microplastic pollution.

“Sometimes we would see litter and be bothered, but I didn’t think much about microplastics, until school and volunteering with Ocean Diagnostics,” says Taya.

“Sometimes we would see litter and be bothered, but I didn’t think much about microplastics, until school and volunteering with Ocean Diagnostics,” says Taya.

After this experience, Taya finds herself noticing plastic everywhere. It has made her think about her own consumer choices and how many microplastics can be released when she does laundry.

Glenys, Taya's mother, explains that she had not thought much about microplastics as well, but now she is inspired to be more protective over the beach.

“Seeing microplastic pollution made me think about all the beautiful sea creatures that could be ingesting microplastics and be harmed by them,” says Glenys.

Over six months, Glenys and Taya, tested Ocean Diagnostics’ new Community Science Toolkit, designed for community scientists to collect reliable data on microplastic pollution.

Plastics smaller than five millimetres in size are called microplastics and their sources typically vary by location. These small plastic pieces can find their way into the environment through storm drain runoff, wastewater, larger plastic litter breaking down and more.

Due to their size, they can be difficult to collect, especially in a standardized way. Hence the need for a Community Science Toolkit.

The mother-daughter duo sampled sand, ocean water and storm drain outflow on local Victoria beaches. They used new tools and Ocean Diagnostics' Community Science protocol to search for microplastics.

Taya explains that using the tools was a learning curve at first, but she quickly got a hang of finding the site, sieving sand, filtering water and picking out microplastics.

Taya has always loved science but did not particularly enjoy spending time in a laboratory. Testing these tools was an opportunity to be in an outdoor lab... a lab on the beach!

The real fun was in the adventure of it all.

“The storm drain was always the most interesting,” the team joke. "We had to climb over tall weeds and logs to get to a tiny trickle that was the storm drain. It was adventurous.”

Storm drains collect rainwater from city streets and bring it out to a body of water to help prevent flooding. Though storm drains are extra adventurous to sample, microplastics in these water outflows provide information about how much microplastics come from city streets. As you may imagine, this information can help the government decide if they need to focus on city runoff as a source of microplastic pollution.

The team found microplastics, but they were very tiny and hard to identify. Protocols designed by Ocean Diagnostics’ helped to ensure the microplastics found were characterized in a standardized way, so they can be interpreted across many community studies.

The Community Science Toolkit and Ocean Diagnostics’ Saturna Imaging System makes characterizing microplastics as a community scientist easy, no matter your age or experience.

“We had never used tools like this before, but if I can do this anybody can do it!” Glenys says with a big smile.