Athens, Ga. – For someone who spends much of her time studying the flow of plastic waste into the world’s oceans, Jenna Jambeck’s first excursion on a sailboat came just last year: a 19-day trans-Atlantic voyage with a crew of 13 other women. The voyage is chronicled in the documentary film “eXXpedition,” which will be screened April 27 at 7 p.m. at Ciné, 234 W. Hancock Ave.
The screening, sponsored by the University of Georgia College of Engineering, will be followed by a panel discussion with Jambeck and filmmaker Jennifer Pate.
“Physically and mentally, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was worth every moment,” said Jambeck, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at UGA. “This group of women operated this 72-foot sailboat for 19 days, and it was not a luxury cruise.”
In addition to hoisting sails, maintaining equipment, cooking and cleaning aboard the S.V. Sea Dragon, Jambeck and the other crew members devoted four hours a day to research during the 3,000-mile voyage from the Canary Islands to Martinique.
In Jambeck’s case, that meant trawling the Atlantic for plastic debris. What she found ranged from items as large as buoys, bottles and buckets to tiny particles known as microplastics.
“The beach in the Canary Islands where we sampled was the most significant event for me,” she said. “With each wave, microplastic was washing ashore, and I had never witnessed that. It did really bring my research of what is going into the oceans full circle.”
Jambeck’s research attracted international attention earlier this year when she served as lead author on a report that estimated some 8 million metric tons of plastic waste makes its way into the world’s oceans each year. The report, which first appeared in the journal Science, is the most ambitious effort yet to estimate how much plastic debris ends up in the sea.
Jambeck is also co-developer of the mobile app Marine Debris Tracker, a tool that allows people to report trash they find along the coast and in waterways. She developed the app along with Kyle Johnsen, also an associate professor in the college and a computer systems engineer.
Co-sponsors for the event include the UGA Office of Sustainability, the UGA Center for Integrative Conservation Research and the Marine Debris Tracker.