What do women, sailing and tiny, naked-to-the-eye pieces of plastic have in common? The eXXpedition!

If you’re picturing an all-female, round-the-world sailing voyage in search of microplastics, you’re getting the right idea. The eXXpedition is on a Round the World mission to empower women in the name of science, adventure, and ‘seeing the unseen’: microplastics, these tiny, pesky pieces of plastic found pretty much in everything.

The truth is, we know quite a bit about microplastics – they are found in everything from table salt to tap water, many of them are shed from synthetic clothing, and they’re chemistry makes them super-attractive to nasty chemicals and toxins (we call them persistent organic pollutants POPs) that can be dangerous to our health.

Examining microplastics from samples during North Pacific eXXpedition 2018, courtesy of Lark Rise Pictures.

But there’s still so much we don’t know! Is there anywhere where microplastics aren’t found? Where are they really coming from? What implications may they have on our health and the health of wildlife? How do we get get these answers? Well, the answer to that question is: science!

eXXpedition is sending over 300 women on 31 different legs to fulfill this 2-year research-based journey. The Guest Crew (myself included) has a wild array of backgrounds, from artists to architects to business analysts to scientists, and we’re being equipped with some awesome high-tech research gear to conduct citizen science along the way.

We’ll be taking water and sediment soils throughout the journey and analyzing them for microplastics in real-time, on-board our sailboat, the S.V. Traveledge. While sailing, we’ll also be going through the eXXpedition program to help us develop solutions and ideas that we can bring back to our communities post-voyage. At each destination and departure point, there will also be events involving the local community, ranging from educational talks and experience sharing, to coastal cleanups and litter assessments.

Deploying of manta trawl for microplastic surveys during 2018 North Pacific eXXpedition, courtesy of Soraya Abdel Hadi.

Essentially, it’s going to be a pretty awesome adventure, trying to make the planet a little bit cleaner for us all! I’ll be posting quite a bit about my experience preparing for the eXXpedition (I don’t depart until June 2020) and some of the science that comes along with it – so subscribe to the page if you haven’t yet for eXXpedition updates. I’ll also make them all easily accessible under the tab on the main page 🙂

If you’re interested in helping sponsor my position on-board the vessel, I have started a crowdfunder to help me cover the fees of my spot. These include food, lodging, boat maintenance and docking fees, cost of full-time crew (there are 4 actual sailors on board, thankfully), equipment and research gear for the vessel. It’s a pretty elaborate trip and we need all the help we can get – any questions feel free to ask below:

*If you are part of a business and would like to set up a ‘corporate sponsorship’ I have some great things I can offer in return. Do drop me a line at plasticfree.israel@gmail.com

Thanks for reading!

Cover photo courtesy of eXXpedition and Jen Russel