How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Garbage Patch

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Deepling emeritus, Miriam Goldstein, is a science rock star.  My science crush on her only deepens after watching her completely explode TeX Oslo.  Miriam is all like BAM SCIENCE!   In case you don’t know, Miriam is a marine biologist and science communicator currently spending a year as a Sea Grant Fellow in the United States Congress.  She was one of the original DSN crew and holds  a Ph.D. from the Harvard of Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego California. She is a leading expert on the ecological impacts of plastic debris in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

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3 comments on “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Garbage Patch
  1. It had the feel of over confidence, to the point of hysteria. Is her sampling area even representative. She says, essentially, “I went out there in an expensive boat and spent a few days looking for a garbage patch that I didn’t find.” Her conclusion? It’s not really there.

    That sounds all well and good, but note and particular the scale of the survey area and the paucity of actual sample information.

    The sample areas are far too minute for any serious scientist to regard them as representative, and I would bet my bottom dollar that the sample information from the 70s and 80s doesn’t have any better pedigree than Myriam’s jaunt out on her expensive boat using a cubic metre net and doing a surface grab and taking some photos, and coming back to tell Olso, “don’t worry, I’ve seen it, the problem is way overstated”.

  2. Please see my 2012 paper on the extent of the garbage patch, which includes Algalita’s data (and actually ALL available data on the subject). If you want more, you can also read my rather extensive 2013 paper on how much plastic there is and how to measure it.

    And check yourself before calling a female scientist giving a professional talk about her own research “overconfiden[t] to the point of hysteria” and implying that I’m not a “serious scientist.” I’m happy to discuss the science with you, but crass sexism will get you banned.

  3. Dear Ms. Goldstein, thank you for this interesting talk. I was wondering: do you have any figures regarding how much time is needed for these plastic particles to completely disintegrate? Could digestive enzymes from these animals speed up the process?

    Aside from this, I found interesting information regarding pollution of the Mediterranean by plastic microparticles on and especially pollution of sea food, such as mussels, on (in French).

    Thanks in advance for your comments and suggestions!

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