Its goal is to vastly improve our understanding of the way plastic litter moves through our ocean.
To achieve this, we will develop an innovative, powerful and comprehensive model for tracking marine plastic through our ocean.Read the full abstract
The amount of plastic in our ocean is exponentially growing, with recent estimates of more than 5 million metric tonnes of plastic reaching the ocean each year. This plastic infiltrates the ocean food chain and thus poses a major threat to marine life. However, understanding of plastic movement and its budget in the ocean is inadequate to fully establish its environmental impact, prompting the EU and G7 to recently make marine litter a top science priority.
It is now recognised that the amount of plastic entering our ocean is several orders of magnitude larger than the estimates of floating plastic on the surface of the ocean. More than 99% of plastic within our ocean is therefore ‘missing’.
This TOPIOS project will make breakthroughs towards closing the plastic budget by creating a novel comprehensive modelling framework that tracks plastic movement through the ocean. Building on well-established previous work to follow generic water parcels through hydrodynamic ocean models, this project will modify these ‘virtual’ parcels to represent pieces of plastic by, for the first time, simulating fragmentation, sinking, beaching, wave-mixing and ingestion by biota.
The new parameterisations that underpin this modelling will be based on field data and new coastal flume wave tank lab experiments. The simulated plastic particles will be tracked within state-of-the-art hydrodynamic ocean models, in order to compute maps of pathways and transports around our oceans and on coastlines and in biota. This numerical modelling will be used to evaluate a broad suite of scenarios and test hypotheses, including where the risk to marine biota is greatest.
The results from this project will inform policymakers and the public on which countries, for example, are responsible for which part of the plastic problem, crucial for mitigation and legal frameworks. It will also inform engineers on where and how to best invest resources in mitigating the problem of plastic in our ocean.
We have an opening for a postdoc to join the TOPIOS team. This postdoc will investigate the sources, pathways and fate of marine plastic pollution by performing model simulations of virtual plastic particles in the flow from Ocean General Circulation Models.
We are looking for a candidate with a PhD in Physics, Physical Oceanography, Applied Mathematics, Data Science, Computer Science or a similar field, who has strong programming skills (preferably python) and can perform and publish high quality research.
Deadline for applications is 15 January 2019. More information, including full list of qualifications, and submission form is available here.
Erik leads and coordinates the TOPIOS project. He is an expert in Lagrangian Ocean Analysis.
Philippe improves and optimises the Parcels code used in TOPIOS to simulate plastic transport.
David investigates how ocean currents and waves transport plastic litter around.
Mikael investigates how to use machine learning to incorporate plastic distribution data into models.
Cleo investigates how plastic litter ends up on beaches.
Anneke investigates the role of sea ice in transporting plastic through the Arctic.
Maarten investigates how plastic crosses the Southern Ocean near Antarctica.
Aike investigates how best to incorporate marine plastic research into school curriculums.
Miriam investigates how global tides impact the transport of plastic litter.
Nicoleta investigates how ocean currents transport plastic to the Galapagos Islands.
Jose is an expert in wave flume experiments, and investigates how plastic ends up on beaches.