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Researchers seek participants for water-sampling project on Lake Erie

Great Lakes researchers are looking for citizen scientists to set sail Saturday, joining what is billed as “the world’s largest simultaneous water-sampling project for microplastics.”

The event will target the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

On Lake Erie, SUNY Fredonia’s Sherri “Sam” Mason will lead a research vessel out of Buffalo with several other environmental educators.

“This event is about awareness of the health of our lakes, but also about community,” Mason said.

The event will sample water for the Worldwide Microplastics Project. The samples will be analyzed for free by Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation.

Sailboats and captains are being provided by Seven Seas Sailing of Buffalo.

The event is being spearheaded by eXXpedition, an all-female crew that travels the world for scientific research, uncovering plastics and toxins in the water and in people.

The eXXpedition series, which began with a transatlantic research trip in late 2014, also has included voyages to the Amazon River, the equator and Norway last year.

This year’s itinerary includes the Great Lakes, Norway and the Caribbean, according to eXXpedition.com.

“One of the great things about living along the Great Lakes is that we all love our lakes so much, but never before has anyone endeavored to take on a task so vast as to encourage everyone to come out and show that love all together, all on one day,” Mason said.

Those interested in participating in the Lake Erie phase of the event are asked to arrive at RCR Marina, 284 Fuhrmann Blvd., by 9 a.m. in preparation for sailing.

The excursion will include lunch near the 1833 Buffalo lighthouse with a return to the marina about 3 p.m. Those participating are encouraged to bring water, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.

Plastics pollution has long been documented in the oceans. Mason, a chemistry professor, discovered microplastics were present in the Great Lakes during studies she led in 2012 and published in 2013.

Subsequent research has determined that tiny microplastics enter the food chain, disrupt the endocrine systems of aquatic life and are suspected of having similar effects in humans.

“These are our lakes, their health is intricately connected to us,” Mason said. “If we treat them poorly, they will be unhealthy, and vice versa. We are connected to each other and to our water.”

The revelations led state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to release a study in 2015 demonstrating the pervasiveness of microplastics in area waterways and the need for banning them.

email: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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