It can take hundreds of years for plastic to degrade alone, but nature may already have answers to our problem. For some organisms, plastic debris offers a food source; for many others, a literal life raft. When 8 to 10 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year, some of it provides a home to entire biological communities.
There are more than 170 trillion plastic particles – with a combined weight of over 2.33 million tonnes – currently floating in the world’s oceans. Today, plastic marine debris is found in all five major ocean gyres, and in the Southern Ocean. Gyres are areas of large circulating ocean currents that act like a vortex, causing floating waste to be gently drawn into their core.
The Royal Society of Victoria is delighted to congratulate Dr Ashleigh Hood, the 2022 recipient of the Phillip Law Postdoctoral Award, and the first to be awarded in the new category of Earth Sciences. Her research focuses on the co-evolution of life and planetary surface conditions over the last several billion years of Earth’s history. Ashleigh attained her PhD in geology from the University of Melbourne in 2014.
Australian fur seals play an important role in Australia’s marine ecosystems, particularly around Phillip Island. To better understand them, the Phillip Island Nature Parks are calling for your help.