Palau high school students participate in microplastics, marine pollution study

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Students picking up trash at Ngerchong island. (Photo from PICRC)

Palau high school students learned to analyze microplastics in sand from Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) researchers.

PICRC, in collaboration with various partners, took a group of 62 students and 22 chaperones to Ngerchong Island on Feb 22 to conduct a scientific-based activity meant to teach students about marine pollution, in particular, microplastics.

Lead by PICRC researcher, Ikelau Otto, the students got a taste for scientific field work. After collecting, classifying, and quantifying the trash found on the beach, the students brought back ten-33 gallon bags filled with trash to Koror where they were properly disposed of.

Results show that 82 percent of the trash collected was plastic, while the rest were composed of rubber, glass, cloth/fabric, metal, and processed lumber. Foam and flip flops were two major items found within the plastic and rubber categories, accounting for 45 percent and 77 percent respectively.

The second component of the field trip was to test for the presence of microplastics. After collecting sand samples from Ngerchong, the students returned to PICRC on Feb 25-26 to experience first-hand how to extract microplastics from the sand.

This field trip was the first of a series of activities that lead up to the Youth Conference on March 12-13. With the Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs (MCCA) as the main coordinator, conservation agencies are coming together to provide tools, knowledge, and experiences to students in Palau.

The purpose of the activity is to raise marine pollution awareness and facilitate the exchange of ideas among these young adults, while at the same time, empowering them into taking action.