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Plastic has been found almost everywhere in Asia but there are still large gaps of knowledge about the amount, distribution and fate of plastic in the marine system.

BioN-TT (Biological Studies for a No-Trash Triangle) is an initiative that aims to understand the source, pathways and destination of plastic in the marine environment and the effects these alien materials have on marine organisms and ecosystems.

Coral Eye Marine Outpost offers six student research scholarships at its facilities on Bangka Island each year, dedicated to the general topic of marine plastic. Students from various universities from Indonesia and abroad have the opportunity to conduct field work in the heart of the Coral Triangle.


In the first phase, BioN-TT wants to conduct an overview of plastic in the marine environment in the heart of the coral triangle, focusing on the area surrounding the peninsula of North East Sulawesi. It wants to investigate a wide range of possible resting places or “sinks” for marine plastic.

Schematic view of typical marine situations that plastic debris have been found. Compartments of interest: Blue frame: Part A, the pelagic realm, green hatched line: Part B, beaches and sediments, purple ellipse: mangrove, seagrass beds and reefs.

Schematic view of typical marine situations that plastic debris have been found. Compartments of interest: Blue frame: Part A, the pelagic realm, green hatched line: Part B, beaches and sediments, purple ellipse: mangrove, seagrass beds and reefs.

The Pelagic Realm

In the marine channel between Bangka Island and the North East Sulawesi “mainland”, plastic is transported by currents from two main sources: the urbanized centers of Manado in the North West and Bitung in the South West. A certain input is also expected from land via rivers, smaller settlements, beach tourism and also from ships and fishing vessels.

Beaches and Sediment

Beaches and the seafloor also accumulate plastic debris. If physical conditions are favourable, these natural compartments serve as final sinks where plastic debris can be buried and deposited. As a result, these habitats can be used as a historical record of marine plastic back in time.

Mangroves, Seagrass beds and Coral Reefs

Coastal habitats that are shaped by organisms like mangrove, seagrass beds and coral reefs are the ecological backbone and cradle of coastal biodiversity. Their rich structure also renders these habitats vulnerable for impact, e.g. by plastic debris, with an assumed increasing sensitivity with increasing complexity.


PROGRAM COORDINATION AND COLLABORATION

Scholarships are coordinated by NTTI and supported by HYDRA together with UNSRAT and CoralEye. Resources from all supporting partners are combined to provide students with the support to conduct efficient studies.

HOW TO APPLY

If you are interested in applying for a scholarship, your project should focus on the following and the effects on the habitats detailed above:

  • the quantitative and qualitative analysis of macro- and micro-plastics on and in the habitats detailed above.

  • plastic and plastic-related chemicals in micro- and macro-plankton.

  • in planktivorous fish like sardines, anchovies etc.

  • in small carnivorous fish like mackerel, bonitos etc.

  • in large pelagic predators like sail fish, marlin, sharks etc.

Applications should include a short and precise project proposal that relates to one of the topics detailed above. The project needs to be based at the student’s university and therefore backed by a professor. The proposal should contain all relevant formal information, an overview of the chosen topic, the hypothesis, the methods to be applied and a time line. Finalised applications should be sent to info@no-trashtriangle.org for consideration. If you have any additional questions, please get in contact via this email address also.

It is hoped that participating supervisors will share knowledge and analytical tools and possibly invite students from other partner institutions to participate in an exchange. Suggestions as to how the student exchange and travel should be funded are appreciated and should be shared with the coordinating team detailed below. 

On completion of the supported project, results and background information should be shared to ensure maximum collaboration and efficiency. We aim to create a set of collaborative publications, and students will receive relevant tutoring and coaching at all phases. Methods (e.g. polymer analyses, plastic census) should be harmonised and adapted to common standards where possible to reach maximum comparability. This will help us create a cohesive view of plastic in the marine environment.


PROGRAM COORDINATORS:

Student tutor and academic lead Indonesia:
Prof. Dr. Markus T. Lasut, Sam Ratulangi University UNSRAT, Manado, Indonesia (coastal management & ecology)

International supporter:
Dr. Miriam Weber, Christian Lott, HYDRA Marine Sciences, Germany
(coastal ecology, biogeochemistry, marine microbiology & symbioses, aquatic plastic research)

Research station partner Indonesia:
Marco Segre Reinach, CoralEye Marine Outpost, Bangka Island, Indonesia (research logistics, marine ecology, underwater work)