Looking under the microscope at the Archipelagos experience of one of our Swedish interns, Elida, and her desire to apply her new transferable skills back home in the Baltic Sea. The microplastic team is currently uncovering the shocking extent of microplastic contamination found in fish species.
Recently graduating with a degree in Environmental Sciences from the University of Uppsala, Elida was drawn to Archipelagos Institute to gain more practical experience within marine conservation to supplement her degree. She came with an open mind and no expectations, “the main thing was to learn how this organisation works and I feel like I have already learned a lot but there is much more to learn, which I am looking forward too.”
Elida is a part of the micro plastics team with three other interns. The aim of the project is to make a comparison between fresh water species and sea water species in relation to the amount of microplastic contamination. They achieve this by examining the gut contents of the species of both invertebrates and vertebrates, using first filtration, then viewing the filters under a microscope. When asked about learning new skills she happily expressed “everything is new, I’ve learned dissection, necropsy and filtration skills. Being able to identify micro plastic is a really good skill I’m developing.”
A typical day of the micro plastics team would be going to the lab in the morning, organising their day’s work whether it be filtration, taking a look under the microscope or both, or some days include necropsies when they have a specimen to execute on. After lunch is dedicated to sorting and inputting data in to Excel and summarising the day’s work in the lab. An extra important task is ensuring the cleanliness of the lab and the maintenance of equipment.

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The micro plastics team are also involved in continuous studies with macro fauna, for example if there is a stranding, they help with necropsies and collection protocol.

Elida particularly enjoys going out and conducting field work such as searching for species that might be suitable for filtration. The team predominantly survey the fish market for species to conduct analysis on. However “I am most hesitant about this because of my moral conflict as a vegan, I don’t like using caught animals.” Yet, she confidently states “but I know the project is important enough to justify it.” She concludes the overall purpose prevails, since the findings are of great significance and are valuable in the long term.
Just being here a month with two more left on the project, Elida already suspected to find micro plastics in most of the samples, “but it’s still shocking due to the extent we have found. It’s more shocking seeing it with your own eyes.” Elida’s experience has been extremely productive and eye opening, “It’s really valuable to come here and learn about the situation of microplastics and plastic in general in the Mediterranean Sea. This knowledge is something I want to take back with me to the Baltic Sea, because I’m very passionate about it.”