Aarhus University Seal

Plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean and beyond
(Johanne Tarpgaard)

Fieldwork for my PhD continues earlier research experience on board research vessels with NGO members and scientists as they track and study marine plastic debris through the Pacific Ocean. Recent research suggest that growing Asian economies are responsible for an estimated 86 % of all plastic currently released into the ocean, which makes the northwestern part of the Pacific specifically relevant for research. Yet, these plastics also quickly disperse and circulate, as ocean currents flow both locally and globally, often transporting plastics for great distances.

In addition to ship-based ethnography I will join science and community projects on ocean plastic pollution. My research combines multi-sited participant observation and interviews with natural scientists and NGO workers with a more-than-human method which seeks to adopt the techniques of “plastic fishing”, plastic microscopy, and plastic-type classification from the natural scientists to learn the “language of plastic”. The goal of the study is to learn how to be methodologically and analytically attentive to both the human and nonhuman life worlds of ocean crises.



  • Lebreton, Laurent C.M., Joost van der Zwet, Jan-Willem Damsteeg, Boyan Slat, Anthony Andrady and  Julia Reisser. 2017. "River plastic emissions to the world’s oceans". Nature Communications.