AI – powered Ocean Life Protector

What is the impact of plastic pollution on ocean life?

The weight of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is equivalent to that of 500 Jumbo Jets.

Plastic debris outweighs zooplankton by a ratio of 36-to-1.

Plastic garbage, which decomposes very slowly, is often mistaken for food by marine animals. This can cause intestinal injury and death and transfers plastic up the food chain to bigger fish, marine mammals and human seafood eaters. Marine animals are also susceptible to choking and entangling in large plastic objects in the oceans such as fishnets, packing bands, plastic rings for drinking cans etc.. Because persistent organic pollutants in the marine environment attach to the surface of plastic debris, floating plastics in the oceans have been found to accumulate pollutants and transport them through ocean currents. Floating and migrating plastic debris has also been found to transport invasive marine species. Increasingly, research shows that marine life that ingests plastics coated with pollutants can absorb these pollutants their bodies.

Microplastics can enter the food chain starting at even the lowest trophic levels, because zooplankton mistake microplastics for food. Further research is needed to determine the impact of human communities who eat large amounts of seafood. Unfortunately, what we know about human health risks is stunted due to lack of oceanographic research funding, cumulative issues such as overfishing and acidification, and the exposure humans experience from other harmful chemicals from consumer plastics and other sources. If there is no way to eradicate plastic from our lives, we must then focus on consumer awareness, designing safer chemicals, and a future of biodegradable plastics.*

*Source

Plastic debris is now found on beaches around the world and in even the most remote places in the ocean, currently there are six major garbage patches within the ocean. Five of these major patches ( North Pacific, North Atlantic, South Pacific, South Atlantic, Indian Ocean) are formed by gyres, which are whirlpools formed by the wind, ocean currents, and rotation of the earth. Normally, once water reaches the center of a gyre, it begins to sink, but since trash (mostly consisting of plastics) floats, it remains trapped atop the gyre and thus causes the formation of a garbage patch. The sixth major patch is located in the Arctic Ocean, and is what is known as an accumulation zone. Scientists believe garbage collects here because it is “a point in the ocean where water coming up from warmer areas of the ocean sinks back down into the depths as it cools,” in addition to the presence of sea ice that can trap plastic as it freezes and release it again once it thaws.

Plastic debris is now found on beaches around the world and in even the most remote places in the ocean, currently there are six major garbage patches within the ocean. Five of these major patches ( North Pacific, North Atlantic, South Pacific, South Atlantic, Indian Ocean) are formed by gyres, which are whirlpools formed by the wind, ocean currents, and rotation of the earth. Normally, once water reaches the center of a gyre, it begins to sink, but since trash (mostly consisting of plastics) floats, it remains trapped atop the gyre and thus causes the formation of a garbage patch. The sixth major patch is located in the Arctic Ocean, and is what is known as an accumulation zone. Scientists believe garbage collects here because it is “a point in the ocean where water coming up from warmer areas of the ocean sinks back down into the depths as it cools,” in addition to the presence of sea ice that can trap plastic as it freezes and release it again once it thaws.

More than half of the world’s marine life is migrating to different places and changing their breeding and feeding patterns. Many marine creatures adapt their migration patterns based on optimal times for prey and migrate over long distances to spawning areas at different periods of time throughout the year. For example whales are migrating to the Arctic to feed on krill in the summer and salmon migrate to oceans for nutrients in different seasons. In general, there are two types of migration: anadromous and catadromous migration naming the migration from large areas of water into smaller areas and vice versa. However, fish do not only migrate horizontally but also vertically. An example of vertical migration are species from deeper sea levels migrating to the surface to spawn or forage on zooplankton in oxygen-richer upper sea levels. Due to the high concentration of microplastic in the upper sea levels especially in the regions of the major garbage patches marine species consummate increasingly higher amounts of microplastic. By looking at one example of interactions of fishes located within the south pacific subtropical gyre, it was discovered that approximately 80% of one species had ingested microplastic. As outlayed in the previous questions marine pollution has detrimental effects on the global ecosystem. Therefore, if marine species’ migratory patterns overlap with garbage patches, it is interesting to further investigate whether species with the highest exposure to plastic pollution on migration routes are the most affected.*

*NEEFMigration of Marine Mammals, Migration in Fish

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Ocean Life Project is part of an AI4Good project series, between the AI for Good Foundation and the Applied Data Science with Venture Applications Course at SCET, UC Berkeley.

GitHub repository here.

SCOPE

Understanding existing and projected plastic marine debris.

GOALS

Produce a heat map exhibiting current and projected marine plastic concentration along California coastline.

Identify collision points between marine wildlife and marine plastic patches.

Produce a ranking table of the most susceptible marine species to plastic exposure.

Propose recommendations in further policy-making in light of findings.

Once important Data Sources are established, fidelity and quality of the Datasets needs to be determined, in order for quality models to be extracted. Determining data accuracy and quality can be non-trivial at times, requiring generally probabilistic approaches, such as Statistic Hypothesis testing to determine confidence intervals.

As datasets are obtained, several Data Cleaning techniques are required before useful results can be yielded. Python and its several packages such as Numpy and Pandas are extremely useful at this step, as it provides easy tools for data managing and cleaning. From getting rid of extra spaces to select and treating blank cells, convert numbers and data types, remove duplicates, highlighting errors, proper capitalization, spell checking, and formatting of various data sets.

Manipulating data sets and Data Frames in Pandas allows for several ways to establish relevant data correlations, essentially data linking, through various regression and Modelling methodologies. In a complicated environment such as the ocean, several variables need to be taken into account on modelling techniques, several of which may be attempted to adequately establish links. From regression to classification, discriminant analysis, resampling, subsetting to shrinking prediction, python offers an ideal environment to test and qualify the obtained results from these methods.

RESEARCH TEAM

DATA – X TEAM IE135

MURIEL MAX

Researcher

JAN XU

Researcher

MARCELLA DEPUNZIO

Researcher

SUBHIKSHA MANI

Researcher

ALLYSON KOO

Researcher

RAFAEL REJTMAN

Researcher

KLEMEN KENDA

SCIENCE lEAD