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Testing the trawls

Memorial-invented equipment tested in world’s largest flume tank

Research | Frameworks in Action

By Jeff Green

Researchers at Memorial are encouraging people to do their part to help protect the ocean and environment.

An interdisciplinary team led by Dr. Max Liboiron, Sociology; Dr. Paul Winger, Marine Institute (MI); and Dr. Josh Lepawsky, Geography, were at the MI’s flume tank on Wednesday, July 13, to test new surface trawls, invented by Memorial to monitor marine plastics.

Interdisciplinary and international

The team also includes student researchers from Canada, the United States and Iceland.

Watch Dr. Liboiron explain the importance of the trawls in helping monitor marine plastics.

Everyone has a role

The group tested the new equipment as part of their work with the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR).

Dr. Liboiron, the Chair in Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, says everyone can play a role in monitoring marine plastics by creating homemade trawls.

“The reason that we’re doing this is that there are plastics in every single ocean in the world—the Arctic, Newfoundland, Labrador—but you can’t see them because 93 per cent of them are smaller than a grain of rice,” she told the Gazette.

“What we have to do is stop them from getting into the ocean to begin with and to do that we need to know what kind of plastics are there and that’s why these trawls exist.”

1/ Testing the trawls

Researchers from Memorial tested various types of surface trawls at the Marine Institute's Flume Tank on Wednesday, July 13.

Photo: Chris Hammond

2/ Student mentorship

Dr. Paul Winger, director, Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources, MI, speaks with Coco Coyle, an engineering student from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., who is spending the summer in Newfoundland and Labrador working with the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research.

Photo: Chris Hammond

3/ Full-day of testing

Melissa Novacefski, who is from Aurora, Ont., and is currently completing a double major in geography and earth sciences at Memorial, takes notes during the testing. Ms. Novacefski is an undergraduate research assistant with the research team.

Photo: Chris Hammond

4/ Media attention

Dr. Max Liboiron speaks with a reporter from CBC Television during the trawl testing.

Photo: Chris Hammond

5/ Capturing footage

Research team member Dr. Josh Lepawsky, a professor in the Department of Geography, uses a GoPro underwater camera to capture footage of the trawls as they are tested in the flume tank, the largest facility of its kind in the world.

Photo: Chris Hammond

6/ All smiles

Conception Bay South native Emily Wells, an undergraduate student in the Faculty of Science completing a major in biology and minor in French, was responsible for taking photos during the trawl testing.

Photo: Chris Hammond

7/ Smaller than a grain of rice

According to Dr. Max Liboiron, 93 per cent of marine plastics are smaller than a grain of rice. She says we can all play a role in monitoring marine plastics by creating homemade trawls.

Photo: Jeff Green

Dr. Liboiron encourages people who want to know how to make their own trawls, to contact her lab.

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