• Open
  • Closing date: 22 March 2023

MISSION TO METRICS

In our mission to rid the world’s oceans of plastic, we rely on a thorough understanding of the ocean plastic pollution problem. The research team at The Ocean Cleanup aims to refine our understanding of the sources, transport, and fate of ocean plastics. An important research aspect is determining the persistence of floating plastic debris at the sea surface. To this end, our research team is currently working on a project in relation to two oceanographic campaigns that took place in the North Pacific Ocean (The Swim and The Vortex Swim) where the team members collected floating plastic samples using surface nets in various regions of the North Pacific Ocean including in the water bodies close to Japan and in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The overarching scientific goal is to develop an index to predict the fate of floating plastic marine debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch using surface area to volume ratio, polymer types, and density measurements. Getting a better understanding of the fate of these particles, especially in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and how physical, chemical and biological parameters influence the particle behaviors helps support our mission and to predict the leaking rate of plastics in the patch.

In order to achieve this overarching scientific goal, this project will include work related to method development, data processing, interpretation, and report writing. Firstly, you will be responsible for organizing, characterizing manually, and taking pictures of plastic samples to process them using a segmentation model. With the help of the model results and measurement techniques, you will develop a method to determine the surface area to volume ratio of the collected sample. Secondly, you will use a gas pycnometer to determine the density of the plastic particles using a representative sub-sample for each location. These particles will also be used for looking at the polymer type using Raman spectroscopy. Thirdly, you will process and interpret the data to look at the dynamics including the variability, distribution, and fate of these plastic particles in the water column across the transect from Japan to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Your findings will be documented in a scientific report and presented to the research team of The Ocean Cleanup.

Working closely with our research team to assess and analyze concept ideas is an important part of this internship. The success of this project relies on delivering a report that will contribute to advancing the understanding of the fate of floating plastic marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean within a short time (6 months). 

RESPONSIBILITIES

Responsible for knowledge building and delivering a high-quality scientific report for the understanding and fate of floating plastic marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean.

Other responsibilities include:

  • Conduct a preliminary literature review to assess the current state of knowledge of floating plastic marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean, how to predict their fate, and the role that physical oceanography plays in the transportation thereof.
  • Get familiarized with the methods used to calculate the surface area to volume ratio and density of floating plastics.
  • Manually characterize plastic particles based on morphology that includes size, color, thickness, weathering, and biofouling. 
  • Learn to work with a segmentation model to characterize the plastic particles using machine learning and cross-compare the data with manual characterization.
  • Gain insight into the chemistry and physics of the plastic particles using Raman spectroscopy and gas pycnometer for the polymer type and density, respectively.
  • Develop a method to determine the surface area to volume ratio of the collected sample.
  • Develop an index to predict the fate of floating plastic marine debris in the North Pacific Garbage Patch using surface area to volume ratio, polymer types, and density measurements.
  • Analyze and interpret the data by looking at patterns and trends in relation to the transportation and fate of plastic marine debris in the North Pacific Garbage Patch.
  • Write the results in the form of a scientific report.
  • Present your findings to the research team and other interested parties at The Ocean Cleanup including collaborators.

PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS

  • Bachelor's degree in relevant field (biology, marine sciences, chemistry, environmental sciences) and currently enrolled in an MSc program (motivated BSc students are encouraged to apply if they have relevant experience)
  • Successful completion of advanced chemistry, physics, and biology courses.
  • Experience with laboratory protocols, procedures, and safety measures
  • Experience with polymer science and plastic pollution research.
  • Experience with chemical and biological research in the laboratory.
  • The ability to clearly present and explain the results of complex research.
  • Ability to quickly build an understanding of complicated technical subjects, where limited knowledge is available.
  • Fluent in English.

PERSONAL QUALIFICATIONS

  • Be able to get to the essence of a technical challenge quickly, and investigate the most relevant/important aspects to get to a solution direction.
  • Able to perform well in a fast-paced and challenging environment.
  • Curious, creative, and determined to deliver.
  • Flexible team player.
  • Ability to work independently.
  • Strong organizational skills.
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills.
  • Intrinsic motivation to work on our ambitious and meaningful goal.

Duration: 6 months

Starting from:
March 1, 2023
Work permit needed:
European Union