surfEXPLORE and Microplastic Research
Erwan Simon is a surfer and a researcher from Brittany, a Celtic region of northern France. One of his roles at surfExplore is collecting information from different sources to determine unsurfed waves and potentially new places to explore on the world map. According to Simon, ‘That is a lot of time on the Internet, [looking through] books, on the phone with travellers, journalists, scientists and specialists… but this is a valuable time spent to get the clues and [to find] “gold,”
How does one find golden locations?
It’s not easy. Simon pores over ‘Geography, bathymetry, meteorology, tide charts, geopolitics, local habits and customs, sanitary conditions, land and ocean access: any single detail can be really important to organise and drive a successful expedition on the ground in places like Algeria, Haiti or Sierra Leone.’
The researcher also volunteers for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) www.adventurescience.org, an organization that brings adventure and science communities together. By collecting seawater samples from the surfEXPLORE project sites, Simon says, ‘Water from some of the most remote regions of the world will be analysed at the Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI) for microplastic particles.’
Microplastics, or very small shredded bits of plastic, are polluting water sources at an alarming rate. The microparticles absorb toxins, which get transferred to the fish and animals that eat them. One study estimates that the past decade’s single-use plastic production equals that of the entire 20th Century.
‘Obtaining an [accurate] count and composition of the particles will allow researchers to better understand the sources of microplastic pollution ingested by more than 250 fish and animals species,’ Simon says.
surfEXPLORE’s mission isn’t just about tasty waves and helping emerging nations. Simon: ‘Thanks to this database, the surfEXPLORE adventures also benefit the natural world.’