Pirate Mama: National Geographic Endorsed Research

I have a confession to make here.

First, though, let me share some good news. It’s official – we’ll be contributing to National Geographic endorsed organization Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation.  We’ll collect water samples this winter while we sail around the Virgin Islands. Invisible to the naked eye, microscopic pieces of plastic pose a devastating threat to our waterways. We’ll send samples back to the lab where they will be studied for the microscopic plastic content and will become part of a comprehensive dataset used to effect change.

Now for the confession – I struggled with how to best tell this news. Nobody wants to be a holier-than-thou-pollution-truth-teller wagging her finger at everyone’s plastic habits. Besides, that would make me the biggest hypocrite in the Southeast. I’m guilty of using plastic disposable diapers when my son, Tobin, was a baby and buying liter after liter of water when I couldn’t find the lid to my Nalgene bottle.

I can imagine with perfect clarity how one of Tobin’s diapers, soaked with rain and bloated to fifty times it’s original size, would disintegrate into little plastic beads and seep into the groundwater, flowing through storm drains all the way to creeks and rivers. Even back then, when Tobin was an infant, I imagined the environmental danger of all those plastic diapers (sometimes more than six a day!) I used to keep him dry and clean.


I told myself I was doing the best I could, as a sleep-deprived single mama juggling a full-time office gig with caring for an infant. I excused myself from the ordeal of cloth diapers. In my mind, they were for someone else with more energy and resources, perhaps a partner or close family nearby. I was doing the best I could just to get by.

I’m not in that place anymore. Now I can do better, and so I must. As I learn about these microscopic bits of plastic, I realize that if I’m brushing my teeth and spitting glistening magical cleaning bubbles over the port side of the boat and then taking water samples on the starboard side, I’m part of the problem. If I’m bemoaning the fact that I can’t eat fresh-caught local fish because they contain bits of plastic as I rub sunscreen containing microscopic pieces of plastic into my skin and then go for a swim, I’m partially to blame.


It’s tempting to point the finger at big business or locals who litter, but the more I learn about microplastics I realize that most plastics in the ocean got there because of a consumer. Sure, plastics such as water bottles, bags, six-pack rings, and packing material put marine life at risk, but the microscopic particles could be truly insidious. We are all part of the problem. By taking small changes that we incorporate into our lives daily, we can make a difference.

We’ve added a video about the Microplastics project to our Kickstarter page along with opportunities for businesses to sponsor the water sample process.

Follow along as I reveal how I’m cutting back on my plastic consumption and fessing up when I fall short. Join us in being a bigger part of a solution than the problem by contributing to our Kickstarter campaign.

Places to Go, Things to See: