Patterns in dispersion and accumulation of plastic litter by ocean currents and eddies
Erik van Sebille, Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht University, Netherlands
Mon, 15/10/2018 – 4:00pm
RC-3085, The Red Centre, UNSW
Ocean currents and eddies carry floating plastic litter from coastlines into the infamous garbage patches in the centres of the gyres. However, the time scales and pathways on which this happens are unknown. In order to assess the impact of the plastic, it is key to know where it gets carried through vulnerable ecosystems.
In this talk, Dr Van Sebille will first discuss how tracks of satellite-tracked drifting buoys can be used to create a Markov model of dispersion at the surface of the ocean. He will show that this simple model accurately simulates the formation of the garbage patches, and can be used as a quick and easy tool to assess pathways of floating stuff.
Dr Van Sebille will then introduce more complicated models of passive particulates in the ocean, based on a Lagrangian description of the flow field from high-resolution models. While Lagrangian particle tracking is widely used in oceanography to track tracers, here the challenge is to make the virtual particles actually ‘behave’ like plastic.
About the speaker:
Erik is an oceanographer and climate scientist. His research focuses on how ocean currents transport heat, nutrients, marine organisms and plastic litter between different regions of the ocean.
He currently leads the “Tracking Of Plastic In Our Seas” (TOPIOS) project, funded by a 5-year (2017-2022) European Research Council Starting Grant.
Erik is the winner of the 2016 European Geosciences Union (EGU) Ocean Division Outstanding Young Scientist Award. In 2013, Erik was awarded a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) by the Australian Research Council.
Erik is a strong science communicator, with appearances on international television, radio and newspapers. He was a Media Fellow with the Australian Government Climate Commission and has co-hosted a section on sea level rise in Tuvalu in the international documentary series Tipping Points.
He is a sought-after international expert on oceanography, having done over 250 interviews on ocean circulation and plastic pollution with media outlets including CCN, BBC, NBC, ABC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, TIME magazine, AP, and Reuters.
Erik also holds an honorary lectureship at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute