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Tamara Frank, Part 2: Saving the Deep Sea

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Back To S.T.E.A.M. Powered | Part 1: The Mysteries of Vertical Migration

When asked to identify the greatest challenges and dangers facing deep-sea ecosystems, Tammy immediately noted marine debris and global climate change. For many of us, the deep-sea seems so remote, so isolated that it’s hard to imagine it being affected by any human activities. Not so, says Tammy, because it’s all part of a larger, interconnected system.

“Take plastics for example,” she told the Oceanscape Network. “They may get into the ocean by someone on a cruise ship throwing trash overboard, but it doesn’t just float on the surface. It moves around. It sinks. The ocean currents break it up into tiny bits which are then eaten by animals. Scientists are now finding tiny micro plastics in the gut of fish in the water column. Roughly 15% of the fish they study are showing this. We don’t know exactly how this affects the physiology of the fish, but as you can imagine having plastic beads in your stomach is not good. Plastics are also very good at absorbing toxins, including PCBs, PHs. All these things we know have noxious effects on animals.”

“Anything you can do to prevent the build up of plastics in the environment is important,” she continued. “Using reusable containers instead of disposable plastic containers is a great example. It’s a really simple change to make and it can have a huge impact if we’re all doing it together.”

And how about climate change? Believe it or not, the deep-sea actually plays a major role in the global climate.

“The deep-sea is critically important to maintaining global temperatures,” Tammy explained. “The reason Canada is so cold and England, which is at the same latitude, is warmer is because of what we call the great ocean conveyor belt. This system of deep ocean circulation helps to transfer heat on a global level, which can moderate temperatures in different areas. Altering how the conveyor belt works would mean wide scale changes in global climate.”

Although marine debris and climate change may sound like huge, daunting issues, Tammy stresses that little actions can result in huge impacts.

“With climate change, one of the first and best things teens can do is learn about it and help educate others that it exists. There are still a lot of people who don’t believe it’s real or caused by humans, but we now have enough data to confirm this is the case. Educate yourself. Educate your parents. Educate anyone you come in contact with. We need to take positive action on climate change now.”

Use the Oceanscape Network to find out more about how you can help solve the challenges of marine debris and climate change.

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About The S.T.E.A.M. Powered Program

This multi-part series features five women who are at the tops of their fields in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. Over the 2015-16 school year, one week will be dedicated to each person, highlighting their education, careers and innovative contributions to their various disciplines — including the discovery of new species, the exploration of hostile ecosystems and the conservation of marine species