Sailing in the Plastic Sea

Latest update August 2, 2019 Started on June 1, 2017

A citizen science laboratory sets sails to study the plastisphere of the Mediterranean Sea.

June 1, 2017
Expedition's summary cannot exceed 240 characters


Did you know that the National Geographic Society is currently offering Explorers a variety of funding opportunities in the fields of conservation, education, research, storytelling, and technology? To learn more and apply for a grant click here.
If you're not interested in applying for a grant, click continue below
Supported by:
In The Field


We set the clock at 5 AM to take advantage of small window of low wind to carry out two manta net trawls, the first one in the canal between the Presque Ile de Giens and the island of Porquerolles, and the second one east of Cap Sicié. The mistral, a strong and cold wind blowing from north / north-west, has been blowing strong for over 48 hours and in the last days we have not been able to carry out field-work.

To sample floating microplastic we use a manta net trawl and follow a standard protocol, trawling the net for 30 minutes with boat speed between 2.5 and 3 knots. We sample when wind speed is at max 2 Bf.

Bf stands for Beaufort and it is a measure of wind speed in the Beaufort Wind Scale, created by Britain’s Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort in 1805 to help sailors estimate the winds via visual observation. 2 Bf corresponds to 4-6 knots, or a light breeze.

Researchers sample microplastic in condition of low wind speed to avoid wind mixing of the surface of the water that leads to underestimation of plastic fragments present at the sea surface. They also use mathematical models that take into consideration wind speed and direction to correct their estimation of sea surface floating microplastics.

In our experience, also sampling a few hours after a strong wind event, like we did this morning, may lead to underestimation of the total amount of plastic fragment at the sea surface. Therefore we will take this into account when analyzing the data to get estimates of plastic fragments concentration.

Despite this, we were able to collect the plastic fragments for our study of microbial communities living on plastic marine debris. We will preserve the samples in the fridge and the freezer and send them to our collaborators once we get back on land.

image-1 image-1 image-1 image-1 image-1 image-1

Some volunteers leave and others arrive

The second week of the Expedition came to an end yesterday, in the port of Toulon. Joanna, Martina, Véronique, Hugo, Virginie and Marion left this afternoon, and Ingrid, Delphine, Jean-Philippe, Geraldine, Youmma and Mathis will take their place, arriving tomorrow, Saturday at lunch time.

We usually take advantage of the free Friday afternoon to clean the boat, wash our clothes, do some food shopping and rest before the upcoming week.

But it was not only rest, because we also took some samples of plastic debris (see pictures below) from the Port of Toulon for the study of microbial communities living on plastic debris in ports.

What microorganism colonize plastic debris in a port? How different are these communities from the ones on plastic debris in sea water? We are as curious as you are!

image-1 image-1 image-1 image-1 image-1


National Geographic France is developing a documentary on the pollution of the Mediterranean Sea. Together with Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of the explorer and filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau, they are shooting parts of the documentary with several NGOs and organisations who active in studying marine plastic pollution and raising awareness.

In the sea in front of the city of Nice, they filmed us carrying out a manta net trawl. Among the plastic fragments we retrieved there was a plastic resin pellet. Plastic resin pellets are small granules generally with shape of a cylinder or a disk with a diameter of a few mm, and usually fall into the size class of microplastics (plastic fragments smaller than 5 mm). They are generally white or black and are the industrial raw material used to make the different kind of plastic objects we use in our daily life.

The pellets can be unintentionally released to the environment both during manufacturing in the first industrial plant as well during the transport to the final factory that make the final plastic product by re-melting and re-molding them. The resin pellets released to the environment are carried by surface run-off, stream, and river waters and eventually end to the ocean. There, they pose a threat to marine life because they are a sort of toxic cocktail, composed of both toxic additives added at manufacture and environmental contaminants adsorbed at their surface.

During manufacture, in fact, some additives are added to the plastic resin pellets to give desired properties. One of the additives is Nonylphenol, an extremely toxic substance persistent in the aquatic environment that has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor in both in vitro and in vivo essays.

In addition, the plastic resin pellets, as well as other plastic fragments, also act as a sponge for environmental contaminants already present in the sea water, often coming from land based sources of contamination. Among the most common environmental contaminants there the PCBs (present in industrial products for a variety of uses, including dielectric fluid, heat medium and lubricant) and DDTs (used as insecticides). Both PCBs and DDTs are toxic, are endocrine disruptors and are classified as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

POPs are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological and photolytic processes. Because of their persistence, POPs bioaccumulate with potential impacts on human health and the environment.

What is an endocrine disruptor? Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. They may be found in many everyday products– including plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides.

What do we mean with bioaccumulation? Bioaccumulation is the gradual accumulation of substances, such as pesticides or other chemicals in an organism. It occurs when an organism absorbs a substance at a rate faster than that at which the substance is lost by catabolism and excretion. Thus, the longer the persistence of a toxic substance, the greater the risk of chronic poisoning, even if environmental levels of the toxin are not very high.

image-1 image-1 image-1 image-1 image-1 image-1

We are in Fiumicino, Rome, Italy, waiting for good weather window to setting sail for St. Laurent du Var, France, to start Expédition MED 2019.

This year the expedition will take place aboard a new research vessel, Free Soul, a 17 metres steel sailing boat.

We took advantage of the extra day on land to prepare the boat and the sampling material, as well as to update the software for the Trident ROV!

Yes, thank you to the 36 followers of our blog we received a Trident ROV! We are very excited about it and we will try to use it as soon as we will arrive in France.

To say "THANKS!" we share a couple of pictures of marine life that we saw in 2017 and 2018!

The first one is a turtle that was released free by the Lampedusa Turtle Group during our visit to them during Expédition MED 2017.

The second is spermwhale we saw together our collaborators Oceanomare Delphis during Expédition MED 2018 in the framework of the Pelagos Plastic Free project we developed together with Legambiente.

image-1 image-1 image-1 image-1
In The Field

Some volunteers leave and others arrive

The second week of the Expedition came to an end yesterday, in the port of Toulon. Joanna, Martina, Véronique, Hugo, Virginie and Marion left this afternoon, and Ingrid, Delphine, Jean-Philippe, Geraldine, Youmma and Mathis will take their place, arriving tomorrow, Saturday at lunch time.

We usually take advantage of the free Friday afternoon to clean the boat, wash our clothes, do some food shopping and rest before the upcoming week.

But it was not only rest, because we also took some samples of plastic (see pictures below) from the Port of Toulon for the study of microbial communities living on plastic debris in ports.

What microorganism colonize plastic debris in a port? How different are these communities from the ones on plastic debris in sea water? We are as curious as you are!

image-1 image-1 image-1 image-1


During Expédition MED 2019 we will continue the study of the plastisphere that we started in 2017 with Erik Zettler and Linda Amaral Zettler at NIOZ, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research. We will also develop a new collaboration with Ruddy Wattiez and Alice Delacuvellerie University of Mons (UMONS) in Belgium.

  • What is the Plastisphere?

It is a word invented by Linda Amaral-Zettler and Erik Zettler to describe the thin layer of microbial life that grows on the surface of any piece of plastic marine debris (PMD) that ends up in the ocean (Zettler et al. 2013), similar to the “biosphere” or the thin layer of life on the outside of our planet Earth. Since the term was coined, it has been extended to describe all living things attached to plastic in any aquatic environment. For a larger piece of plastic, say the size of your fist, this could include everything from microbes up to macroalgae (“seaweeds”) and invertebrate animals like barnacles, so an entire community floating around on these little “islands” of productivity and biodiversity.

  • What is a genome?

A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism. In humans, a copy of the entire genome—more than 3 billion DNA base pairs—is contained in all cells that have a nucleus.

  • What is a proteome?

A proteome is the set of proteins thought to be expressed by an organism. The majority of the UniProt proteomes are based on the translation of a completely sequenced genome, and will normally include sequences that derive from extra-chromosomal elements such as plasmids or organellar genomes in organisms where these occur. Some proteomes may also include protein sequences based on high quality cDNAs that cannot be mapped to the current genome assembly due to sequencing errors or gaps. These are only included in the proteome following manual review of the supporting evidence, including careful analysis of homologous sequences from closely related organisms.

Below some images at SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) taken by Alvaro Adame and Raffaella Casotti, of the Stazione Zoologica di Napoli, on samples from Expédition MED 2018.

An overview of a sample of plastic fragment and a close up showing several types of diatoms and bacteria-sized cells on the surface and in cracks on the surface.

image-1 image-1

As we are preparing for the upcoming field survey, we are also developing contacts with journalists and TVs that will come onboard with us for a few days to film our work.

This summer we will receive a TV journalists from National Geographic France and a from TV5. They will sail with us from St. Laurent du Var to Toulon and we'll be filming the work we will be doing:

  • sampling floating microplastics with the manta net
  • preserving samples for the study of the plastisphere
  • preserving samples for proteonomic analyses

If we will have the Trident ROV will share with them also submarine images.


Researchers estimate that 86 million tons of plastic debris have accumulated in the ocean since 1950, when plastic started to be produced industrially. Every year, between 4.8 and 12.2 million ton enter into the ocean and if plastic production and generation of plastic waste continue with current trends, by 2050 up to 12000 million tons of plastic debris could have accumulated in the ocean.

The Mediterranean Sea is one of the 6 accumulation zones of plastic debris in world oceans. Despite is surface being only 1% of the surface of the global ocean and its volume less than 0.3% of the total volume of world oceans, previous research has estimated that 7% of the 5.25 thousand billiards of plastic fragments at the surface of the global ocean are in the Mediterranean Sea. This is almost 4 times more than in the North Pacific gyre.

To sample floating microplastics we will use a manta trawl (see picture below), with a fixed mesh size (330 μm). We will tow the manta for 30 minutes at boat speed 2 knots and when sea conditions are calm (max 3 Beaufort). But plastic pollution at sea surface is only the tip of the iceberg of marine plastic debris. Researchers estimate that at the sea surface there is only about 1% of the total plastic that ended up in the ocean. Between 3-5% is found on beaches, between 9-34% as macrolitter at the sea surface. The rest, between 60 – 87% is thought to be sitting on the seafloor as macrolitter, be in the sediment or inside the food webs as microplastics, or being fragments too small to be detected (the so called nanoplastics).

During Expédition MED 2019 we plan to use the Trident ROV to study plastic pollution along the French coast and document different levels of pollution in zones with different impacts of human activities. For example, we can conduct line transects and search the seafloor in areas close to big coastal cities, such as Nice and Marseille, or in Marine Protected Areas, such as Port Cros National Parc and National Parc of Calanques. The Trident ROV can travel up to 100 m deep and can work for up to 3 hours, allowing to record high definition video.

The images collected with the Trident ROV will not only be useful for us to conduct scientific research and get first quantitative estimates of plastic pollution at the seafloor, but we can also use them to document this plastic pollution to the largest public. As always with the scientific activity we carry out during Expédition MED surveys, we will train citizen scientists to record submarine images.

pics by Alexis Hoang

image-1 image-1


Bruno Dumontet, founder and director of Expédition MED, went to the University of Mons, Belgium, to meet with Alice Delacuvellerie, microbiologist, to get some sampling material we will use this summer.

Here a few of the items we will use for the proteomics research part of Expédition MED 2019:

  • 150 falcons of 50 ml to preserve the plastic fragments
  • 10 bigger pots for possible larger samples and difficult to cut
  • ethanol 70%
  • 3 boxes in frigolite
  • refrigerant blocks
  • A probe to sample water salinity and pH

(in the pic, some tools used in 2018)



During Expédition MED 2019 we will continue the study of microplastic fragments floating at surface of the Mediterranean Sea and of the Plastisphere*, the newest marine ecosystem, composed of plastic debris floating in the ocean and of microbial communities living on it.

To do so we will continue the collaboration with microbiologists Linda Amaral Zettler and Erik Zettler of NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research. Linda and Erik have discovered the presence of bacteria of the genus Vibrio on microplastic in the Atlantic Ocean and invented the term Plastisphere.

We collaborate with them since 2017 and we are know finishing up the analysis and writing a scientific paper on the 140 samples collected in the 2017 and 2018 campaigns.

The 2019 scientific program is expanded to include a new collaboration with the laboratory of proteomics and microbiology professor Ruddy Wattiez and Alice Delacuvellerie University of Mons (UMONS) in Belgium. With them we will develop a new proteomics research program. A single genome* can actually lead to different proteomes* depending on the stages of the cell cycle, differentiation, response to different biological or physical signals, pathophysiological state.

Maria Sighicelli and Loris Pietrelli from ENEA, Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, are also our collaborators. They have carried out the optical counts of microplastic fragments we collected in 2017 and 2018.

Stephane Bruzaud, Professor in chemistry from the University of Bretagne Sud is also a long-term collaborator of Expédition MED.

Ciao Francesca! Grazie per il link, non avevo ancora visto il rapporto WWF. Quest'anno navigheremo vicino alle coste francesi e torneremo a Marsiglia. Una delle azioni che cerchiamo di fare è sensibilizzare per cambiare i comportamenti individuali e influenzare i decisori politici per le leggi di produzione di plastica e gestione dei rifiuti plastici. Si, negli ultimi anni c'è sempre più plastica a Marsiglia e nel mare. Il faut que ça change!
In The Field


There's no much data available on Risso's dolphins (Grampus griseus). They are widespread in the Mediterranean Sea, but not easy to see.

We had the chance to see one far in the distance, and thanks to a big zoom we could take pictures of this individual. Pictures might be useful to marine mammals researchers, that thanks to the white scars on the body of the animals are able to recognize one from the other.

photo: T. Ballerini



Fin whales (Balenoptera physalus) are the second largest animal on Earth, after blue whales.

The sub-populations of the Mediterranean Sea are separated from those of the Atlantic and considered by the IUCN as "endangered".

Research by scientists from the University of Siena, Italy, showed that in the Pelagos Sanctuary the feeding zones of fin whales are in superposition with zones of microplastic accumulation.



Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) are the most abundant marine mammals in the Pelagos Sanctuary.

They have a global distribution, and according to the IUCN Red List their world population are considered as of "least concern".

However, the sub-populations in the Mediterranean Sea are considered as "vulnerable" according to IUCN and ACCOBAMS (the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area).

We had the chance to spend about 20 minutes with a dozen of these beautiful animals, bow riding in front of our sailing vessel Ainez.

The beautiful picture of this individual spinning in front us was taken from professional photographer Sébastien Lucas.

Sébastien was volunteering with Expédition MED in the leg from Bastia to Nice.



When you have the chance to see marine mammals at sea, you don't have to bother them. Marine mammals specialist recommend to never "chaise" the animals, don't cut their way, slow down the engine, be quite and see if they are coming close to you.

In one special day, we had a mother and calf coming along side the Ainez on port side; then we saw a sperm whale jumping far ahead on starboard side; and finally we met a group of 8 sperm whales ahead of us.

The captain turned the engine off. We were advancing with sails only and could admire these beautiful animals in the wild for about 30 minutes.

Dario Nardi, a marine biologist and film maker that was onboard with us in the leg from Fiumicino to Bonifacio, had an aerial drone with him and took many nice pictures (as the one here below).

He also shoot a great video, that you can see on National Geographic Italy (



Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) are the largest predators in the oceans (and on Earth, btw).

In the Mediterranean they have distinct populations from those of the world ocean, kept apart, among others, by the "language" they speak.

According to IUCN Red List, sub-populations of sperm whales in the Mediterranean are "endangered".

This beautiful picture of a sperm whale jumping a few hundred meters in front of Ainez was taken by Carlotta Vivaldi, a marine mammals expert working with the NGO Oceanomare Delphis with whom we have a partnership since 2017.


The Pelagos Sanctuary is a Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI)

12 species of cetaceans, 15% of marine mammals of the world, live in the Sanctuary, which covers a surface of 87 500 km2, with 2022 km of coasts.

Despite the high biodiversity, in the sanctuary there are some of the most polluted regions in the Mediterranean Sea.

The SPAMI agreement was signed between France, Monaco and Italy in 1999 and came into force in 2002, but conservation measures are insufficient (MEDPAN 2016, Mediterranean MPA Status report)



The Pelagos Plastic Free project - Integrated actions to reduce plastic debris in the Pelagos Sanctuary has three objectives:

1) GOVERNANCE: Enhance the governance capacity of coastal municipalities

2) SCIENCE: Increase scientific knowledge on the Plastisphere and on the origins and sources of plastic debris

3) OUTREACH AND EDUCATION: Increase stakeholders' awareness (including fishermen, tourists, local communities, sailors, scuba divers)

The project is partially funded by the Pelagos Sanctuary of Marine Mammals and is developed by Expédition MED and Legambiente.

Hi Ida, thanks for your comment. As far as education and outreach, one of the nicests things Expédition MED has done is to produc a moving exhibition called "Plastified Oceans" (you can see some pictures here: that traces the history of plastic marine debris and shows solutions to end this problem. The exhibition is composed by several large panels and a big section is made up of plastic marine debris collected during beach cleanups on French Atlantic coast in 2017. The exhibition is in French and it is touring in France, but we would like to translate it in other languages too.


In 59 days we sailed 2100 nautical miles in the Mediterranean Sea.

27 citizen scientists helped us sampling microplastic and collecting useful data for the study of microbial communities living on plastic marine debris.

We monitored

  • floating micro and meso plastic debris (77 samples);
  • insects carried by the wind (165 samples);
  • the plastisphere (81 samples);
  • floating macro plastics (32 transects; 113 opportunistic observations; 3943 floating objects observed);
  • marine litter at the sea floor;
  • marine mammals (84 cetaceans were observed: 35 Common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), 29 Striped dolphin (Stenella coeurleoalba), 1 Sperm Whale (Physether macrocephalus), 19 Individus non identified);
  • sea turtles (6 sea turtles observed; 3 Caretta caretta put back in freedom with the Lampedusa Turtle Group)
  • we also observed many plankton species: Porpita porpita, Velella velella, many crabs, Pelagia noctiluca, sygnates, sea horses, Salpa maxima, Beroe ovata
image-1 image-1
The full summary of the Expédition can be found here:
In The Field


For the first time since we left, we tested our little manta net for citizen science. This is a lighter, less bulky Manta net and will be provided to sailors as a kit. We launched our first prototype composed of a PVC frame and equipped with a weight of 1kg. The net performs well in the water but the weight is too great, the entry of the Manta net is too under the surface. We pull up our net, remove the weight and place two plastic bottles on each side so that they play the role of floats. Many thanks to Giulio for his help in fixing and consolidating the PVC frame.

Thus a sample of 30min at 2 knots could be made (according to our standard sampling protocol). After filtration of our sample on a 280µm filter, it is dried in the pan, then stored in aluminum foil properly labelled. In the long run if this protocol works and is not too time-consuming, this kit could be provided to sailors so that they can collect samples at sea and send us theses samples for analysis,thus helping to map the distribution of plastics on a larger scale (because often scientist can’t go everywhere so it’s interesting to take advantage of sailors’ journeys).

Regarding life on board, we were able to observe a small turtle, probably a loggerhead sea turtle, then we swam with a small ray and admired some eruptions of Stromboli while eating pizzas prepared without oven by our cook Adrien and his faithful assistant Justin.


Ischia >> Nerano

What a surprise to wake up to see these beautiful landscapes around us. Ischia is a beautiful island characterized by its colorful houses and an old prison on the cliff.

After the morning swim and breakfast together, we leave for a few hours of sailing belong arriving at our first sampling point for the day. We made a total of 3 Manta net trawls today: 1 outside the Gulf of Naples, 1 inside the Gulf without the influence of the river and 1 close to the plume of the river.

All our samples were filled with plastic and especially polystyrene. Moreover, all along our trip today, we observed floating macro-plastics that were mostly polystyrene, but., lunch overlooking Mount Vesuvius cheered us up!

Today we carried out for the first time filtration of seawater to recover on a filter (Sterivex) bacterial communities living in seawater and thus provide a comparison with the bacterial communities living on plastic debris. We must filter 2L of water but the filter clogs quickly, fortunately Tosca is our superwoman and managed to filter everything.

Then we headed to Capri and had to contend with the many eddies caused by boats much bigger and faster than us as they headed inside! Finally, we arrived in the anchorage at Nerano, again with breathtaking landscapes. We were able to have dinner quietly and start to look together at the wonderful photos taken by Laura and Eric (our eco-volunteer very talented in photography).

image-1 image-1 image-1 image-1

Palmarola >> Ischia

After a night spent anchoring off the island of Ponza and a good swim, here we go again toward Naples in order to take new samples. Life onboardis going very well in a friendly atmosphere and everyone has found their place. For Manta net deployments, at each new sample, everyone changes their post so that each has the opportunity to do all the manipulations.

Today, we completed 2 sampling stations. Once again plastic is present in our samples. But we have also been able to observe beautiful species: cnidarians (Porpita porpita, Velella velella), a transparent conical ctenophore, and radiolarians. All these organisms are very interesting when we observed them with a binocular magnifier. We sailed into the night to get to an anchorage in Ischia near the Gulf of Naples.

image-1 image-1

Fiumicino >> Palmarola

Finally it’s the great departure !

As we leave to sail towards our first sampling point, we are all excited and eager to see what the sea offers us. Arrived at the sampling point, we slow down to reach a speed of 2 knots. The Manta net is launched: It’s time for 30 minutes of sampling!

Everyone is at their post, one person takes notes (date, time, GPS position, and asks the captain about the sea state as well as the force and direction of the wind). Three people are stationed to launch and retrieve the Manta net while another person is ready with gloves to carry out the microbiology protocol.

Once the contents of the net are emptied into a cleaned bucket, a piece of plastic is selected to be divided into three parts: one for DNA analysis of the microorganisms attached to the plastic (in collaboration with Linda Amaral-Zettler of NIOZ), another piece for scanning electron microscope observation (in collaboration with Erik Zettler of NIOZ and Raffaella Casotti of SZN), and a last piece that will be analyzed to determine the chemical nature of the plastic (at the University of Lorient).

The rest of the protocol includes the sorting of insects from the net contents... but we are interrupted by a group of 10 Common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) ! What a joy to see them swimming alongside the boat! After all the excitement, we go back to the sorting of insects from our sample, then we sieve the sample to concentrate the various pieces of plastic that will be analyzed in partnership with the University of Lorient. The first sampling allowed scientists on board (Tosca, Laura and Marion) to become familiar with the protocols.

After several hours of navigation, we observed a lot of floating macro-plastics : polystyrene crates, bottles, plastic bags… Later, we made our second sampling. This time, we found a blue cnidarian (« jellyfish »), but there is again many plastic pieces.

image-1 image-1

The morning was devoted to interactions with the Italian press from Linea Blu as well as the French press with a journalist from BFM TV. We went out to sea for a short demonstration cruise to show them the launching of the Manta net and the manipulations that we will carry out throughout this 2017 campaign.

Some of the crew was interviewed (Bruno, Tosca, Giulio, Laura and Adrien) so they could explain in more detail the objectives of the campaign. After a presentation and several filming sessions, the journalists disembarked, and we prepared out our luggage and went to the anchorage a little further north of Fiumicino. Our captain Giulio took advantage of our first evening on the boat to give us a briefing on the safety equipment and procedures on board.


This day was focused on review of the protocols we will be using aboard and loading food and equipment aboard the Ainez. Then we went sailing on the Tiber (river bordering Fiumicino) to take our marks on the boat and to test the launching of the Manta net.

On our return to Tecnomar, we welcomed Carlotta from Oceanomare Delphis cetacean observation and monitoring association who gave us a detailed and dynamic presentation of all the cetacean species that we may encounter during our journey.

With star-filled eyes, we welcomed the eco-volunteers who will participate during the first week of the Expedition MED campaign 2017 to help us: Cécile, MariaNovella and Eric. That evening we shared our first meal together, once again perfectly prepared by “El Cuisto”.



After three days on the road and few stops to pick up food kindly provided by Biocoop Méditerranée at Mougins and Biocoop Riviera in Nice (many thanks to them), here we are in Fiumicino welcomed by Giulio, the Captain of our vessel Ainez. The crew is almost complete for the first week or « leg » of the voyage: Bruno, the founder of Expédition MED accompanied by two young people in civic services (Justin and Marion), our cook Adrien and the scientific coordinator Tosca Ballerini.

A conference was organized and we were fortunate to have the presence of the mayor of Fiumicino and his deputy, journalists of Faronline who acted as coordinator of the day, a member of the Italian environmental NGO Legambiente, and representatives from the harbor master’s office and the fishermen’s association. During the morning there was a presentation of our NGO and of the expedition 2017 plan and scientific program. The discussion continued over a delicious pasta salad prepared by Adrien.

The afternoon took the form of a round-table discussion to discuss the problem of waste in fishing nets and the management of this waste. Finally, in the evening, Laura, a newly graduated Ph.D. scientist, joined us as part of the scientific team.

[texts by Marion Philippon with inputs from the rest of the scientific team]

image-1 image-1 image-1
Expedition Background

The Mediterranean Sea has been called a "Plastic Soup". Plastic marine debris concentration at the sea surface and on the seafloor is indeed one of the highest in world oceans.

Expédition MED is a citizen science laboratory that in collaboration with several European research institutes sets sails to study this plastic pollution. Citizen scientists participate in collecting data to quantify microplastic pollution at the sea surface and study the microbial communities that live on plastic marine debris, the so called plastisphere.


Contribute to this expedition

Email Address
Number card
Postal Code

Review Your Contribution

You have chosen to contribute to expedition.

Confirm your details:

  • Name:

  • Email:

  • Last 4 digits:

Click below to proceed.

Thank You for Your Contribution!

Fundraising Details:


Tell us how raising these funds will impact your expedition
You're almost there, we just need to know three more things:
Is any part or component of your project funded by the National Geographic Society or a National Geographic Society Grant?
Is anyone on your expedition/project team affiliated, either currently or in the past, with the National Geographic Society?
Did you apply for a grant/funding from the National Geographic Society for this project?
You have a goal to raise by for:
How will raising these funds impact your expedition?
Is any part or component of your project funded by the National Geographic Society or a National Geographic Society Grant?
You’ve responded:
Is anyone on your expedition/project team affiliated, either currently or in the past, with the National Geographic Society?
You’ve responded:
Did you apply for a grant/funding from the National Geographic Society for this project?
You’ve responded:

Thank You

Fundraising is almost live!
Thank you for applying to collect contributions! We will review your request and follow up with next steps via email.
Feel free to email us if you have any questions.