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Microplastics in metal collection filter
Infographic about impact of microplastics and the biological carbon pump.

Microplastics are extremely small pieces of plastic debris that are less than 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) in length. Microplastics have been found in many ecosystems, from the deep ocean trenches to Arctic sea ice and agricultural soils. Their ubiquity and potential impacts on ecosystems and human health are an active area of research and concern.


Microplastics are an emerging concern due to their presence in every ecosystem on the planet and their small sizes, which make them available for ingestion by small animals at the base of the food chain. Their presence is undetermined along most of the coast of Great Britain.  


During our GB Row Challenge, we will be carrying a pump designed by Harwin and Porvair Filtration Group, which filters particles out of seawater. We will need to ensure that these samples are properly stored on board. These particles will then be analysed by the University of Portsmouth and any microplastics quantified and characterised. This will give the first coherent national maps of microplastics in coastal waters and will add to those obtained from the 2022 and 2023 GB Row Challenge editions.


Our Boat is Rigged to Collect Data

We have a 4 types of sensors and sample collection systems outfitted on our boat, including a temperature and salinity recorder, a hydrophone, and 2 water pumps for collection of eDNA and microplastic samples.

Temperature & Salinity

Temperature and Salinity recorder mounted on the row boats rudder.

Temperature and salinity play crucial roles in the ocean's physical structure, circulation patterns, and biological productivity. Together, temperature and salinity determine seawater density, which fundamentally shapes the vertical stratification and horizontal currents that redistribute heat, nutrients, gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide, and marine organisms across the globe. This shapes ocean ecosystems and Earth's climate patterns.


In recent decades, scientists have observed a shift of warm-water species moving towards the poles, as higher latitude ocean waters get warmer and suitable for warm-water wildlife. This also means commercial, rare, or keystone species will change where they live, with implications for many countries’ economies and ecosystems. Therefore, monitoring these parameters goes hand in hand with the biodiversity monitoring.


Our boat is outfitted with a temperature and salinity recorder. The sensor is fully autonomous and is attached to our rudder – it will run independently as we row.



The eDNA collection filter.

eDNA stands for environmental DNA. It refers to the genetic material that is shed from organisms into their surrounding environment through various sources like:

  • Shed skin cells, fur, or feces from animals

  • Reproductive cells, tissues, or mucous from aquatic organisms

  • Plant materials like pollen, seeds, or decaying matter

This DNA, though small in quantity, can be collected from environmental samples like soil, water, or air and analyzed to detect the presence and identify the species of organisms that inhabit or pass through that environment.


eDNA analysis is a powerful tool in various fields including biodiversity monitoring, conservation, ecology, and biosecurity.  In the case of ocean conservation it can be used to track the presence, or lack of presence, of rare and endangered species in areas. Our analyses will specifically target marine vertebrates, such as cetaceans, seals and fish. With this data we will help efforts to monitor and protect rare, endangered, commercial, or ecosystem keystone species in British waters.


We will be carrying another pump system designed by Harwin, Porvair Filtration Group and NatureMetrics which will capture very fine fragments of DNA from seawater. We will need to inject a chemical preservative into the sample, to ensure the stability of the DNA while the samples are stored on our boat for several weeks, ready to be analysed at NatureMetrics upon our return. 



With underwater sounds, one can perceive both biodiversity and anthropogenic noise pollution. Many marine animals use sound to communicate or feed. Not just dolphins and whales – fish and crustaceans too!


Anthropogenic noise like ships, dredging, sonars, have changed the natural marine sound scape, and it can disturb animals by covering up their sounds or even cause them physical damage. With a hydrophone or underwater microphone, we can study which animals live where as well as around what levels of human-made noise.


We will carry a hydrophone in our rudder, which will run continuously, creating terabytes of data for the analysts at the University of Portsmouth to sort through, to detect biodiversity and anthropogenic noise.


 GB Row Challenge’s Row with a Purpose program was born out of a desire to understand how to preserve the marine ecosystem. Ocean research is costly and so citizen science is a way to cut down expenses. As ocean rowers we can offer our rowing vessel as platform for scientific equipment and our time to support scientists in understanding how to live sustainably with our ecosystems. Our team, Sea Change, which will participate in the 2024 edition, endorses this ambition fully.


Laura Fantuzzi works on this research as part of her PhD, the samples and data collected as we row around the UK will help her to shed light on the distribution and spatiotemporal variability of pollution as well as their relationship with biodiversity at the ecosystem level. We hope this will be useful as a case study to scale up marine monitoring as well as for informing policy and environmental coastal management.

Science Spotlight: A Row with a Purpose

More About Our Equipment

Coming Soon

Dolphins jumping
Snapping Shrimp

Listen to the Sounds of the Sea

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