Miami’s Pangaea Explorations launches research journey into Great Lakes

The summer, anyone from senior citizens to students can assist in hands-on research in the Great Lakes.

Florida organization Pangaea Explorations launches its first expedition into the Great Lakes, to conduct research on plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Currently sailing in Bermuda, the expedition yacht Sea Dragon will travel to Cape Cod, Massachusetts in late June to kick off the Great Lakes expedition.

The Sea Dragon, pictured here, will sail from Cape Cod to Halifax. Photo: Pangaea Exploration.

The Sea Dragon, pictured here, will sail from Cape Cod to Halifax. Photo: Pangaea Exploration.

Throughout the course of the trip, there will be eight separate legs, where the different “citizen science” groups will switch off to assist in hands-on research focused primarily on plastics in the Great Lakes. The groups include undergraduate students, senior citizens, teachers and more.

Each leg spans about one to two weeks, and the journey will end in October in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“The main focus on this expedition is plastic pollution,” said Asta Mail, Pangaea’s Great Lakes program coordinator. “Up until last year, no one had really researched plastic pollution in the Great Lakes that much, and that’s our goal.”

Participants will be trained on research activities like water sampling, and then help collect the data.

This is the first Great Lakes expedition that Pangaea, a not-for-profit environmental adventure charter organization, has ever offered.

“It’s really exciting for us,” said Mail. “It’s been pretty groundbreaking for our organization… hopefully if everything goes well, it can be something we offer again.”

At each stop, the groups will host outreach programs with the lakeside communities to explain what they learned and encourage others to take notice of the sustainability and environmental issues that face oceans and lakes.

Trip costs vary between $600-$2000, depending on the portion of the trip. More information can be found here.

Artists, filmmakers and authors will collaborate with Pangaea after the trip to create a “One Water Story” – a multimedia narrative of the findings and the journey, Smith said.

“We also hope to publish a book with our findings afterwards as well,” she said.

Although the goal is to educate the public, Mail said one of the most important results to see is inspiring positive conservation action in those on the trip.

“We’re trying to get people who don’t have opportunities to explore the lakes firsthand to study, research and see how data is collected,” she said. “We also want people to just get excited about the environment and the water.”