Plastics and Ocean Currents

On November 16, 2016, GL held our final lunch of the fall semester and featured Dr. Tobias Kukulka, Associate Professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment at UD, who presented a talk on his research regarding the effects of ocean currents on the movements of marine plastics.

Marine plastics, such as those that occur in the renowned Great Pacific garbage patch, form an amorphous soup of small plastic pieces. Wind and ocean currents churn these tiny pieces throughout the depth of the water column, further dispersing the spread of plastic. The small size of the plastics, combined with the complex effects of these currents, makes quantifying the debris challenging.

In his research, Kukulka sought to better estimate the amount and locations of plastics in the oceans using a new mathematical model based on weather data and previous sampling. According to the Kukulka’s work, existing models may underestimate plastics in still waters by a factor of 2.5 and in turbulent waters by a factor of 27. Kukulka and his team have developed their model so that it may be adapted for use by a variety of scientific disciplines.

Additional Green Liaisons talks may be found on UD’s Youtube channel here!