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Public research of microplastics in water bodies - training for teachers and exchange of experience

The training on selection and analysis of microplastic samples taken from natural waters took place in the St. Petersburg on the 7 of May. It was held by the experts of Ecocentrum Ltd, non-governmental organization "Friends of the Baltic" and the Research Limnology Institute of Lymnology of Russian Academy of Science. Educators from schools and universities, public activists and scientists shared their experience of water research and the results of testing methods of marine litter and microplastics investigations.

Experts talked about the problem and sources of plastic pollution in natural waters, presented a methodology for the selection and analysis of samples to study the microplastics p, held a workshop on the analysis of the samples with a microscope and discussed the experience of testing the methodology.

An introductory report on microplastics issue was presented by Elizaveta Merinova, "More Baltic, less plastic" project manager. She told about the history of the problem of plastic pollution, noting that the most significant amount is given by the "secondary" microplastics - particles obtained from the destruction of large plastic pieces. "Primary" microplastics and sources of its origin, including the cosmetic industry, deserve special attention because in this case we know exactly the causer.

Invited expert Ekaterina Ivanova - researcher of the laboratory of complex problems of Limnology from Limnology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences presented the algorithm and technical recommendations formed as a result of testing " The methodology for monitoring pollution of water bodies with microplastics ". The latest version of the method can be found here: http://baltfriends.ru/eng_rw_manual - RW manual Appendix 9 MIcroplastic. Ekaterina gave detailed advices on how to take a sample more conveniently, and demonstrated nesessary equipment, which can be made independently. The expert noted that the concentration of microplastics and the amount of water to be spilled through the sample filter strongly depends on the season and the specific site of sampling. For example, by the end of autumn impurities settle and to detect plastic particles we have to shed much more water than in the spring. Also she has shown photos of samples of different types of microplastics, and paid a special attention on how to distinguish microplastics from natural organic compounds. This question was the most debatable, and training participants had the idea of creating a database of samples images under a microscope with different objects that can be confused with microplastics – a kind of "Microplastics Determinant" and additionally images of various objects that can be confused with microplastics.

Within the microscopes workshop participants reviewed a pre-prepared water sample. For maximum immersion in the subject trainees tried to analyze 2 samples. In the first case, It was Filtered particles on a nylon screen filter with the mesh diameter 90 µm. In the second case, a sample of water from the Gulf of Finland with filtered particles in a Petri dish was considered. In both samples we’ve found a large number of detritus and various aquatic organisms, and, of course, microplastics – mainly plastic fibers.

Alexandra Kokoreva, a teacher of complementary education at the Center Krestovsky Ostrov, spoke about work with students to pick up, analyze and compare samples from the Okhta river and the Northern coast of the Gulf of Finland near the Tarkhovka Forest Park. According to Alexandra, the microplastics concentration in both samples was almost identical. Olga Golovanova - teacher of the Center for environmental education (lyceum 389) shared the experience of the school project on the study of cosmetic products with microplastics.

The training was held within the framework of the project "More Baltic, less plastic" of the Baltic sea conservation Fund and the Barents-Baltic "Nature and people"program.

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