UNCW researchers’ work used in new documentary


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Researchers say something is threatening our oceans, something that is a part of our daily lives. A new documentary called A Plastic Ocean is exploring the environmental impacts of plastic debris in the world’s oceans.

The new documentary features some research done by UNCW staff.

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Bonnie Montelelone is a researcher in UNCW’s chemistry department who has been diving into this environmental concern since 2009.

She said she has been collecting ocean water samples throughout the world’s oceans.

“Over the past 5 years I have been collecting surface samples and again every single one has contained plastics,” said Montelelone.

Monteleone said the plastics they have found are dangerous.

“Basically what they are are man-made chemicals. There’s nothing on this planet that knows how to break them down, so they exist in the environment for a long time, and those we know are carcinogenic,” said Monteleone.

She said research shows marine animals eat the plastics, they take in those chemicals, then it moves right on up the food chain.

Monteleone contributed the findings to a new documentary called A Plastic Ocean set to be released this year.

“The whole point of this film is to educate people on this consumption of plastic and where it ends up,” said Monteleone.

Monteleone said she was contacted by the film’s producer Jo Ruxton to use her sampling. Monteleone said she also got other UNCW researchers involved.

Dr. Susanne Brander, assistant professor in the biology department, said she had a student who looked at how fish consume plastics in their environment.

Brander said this is an important issue and she was pleased to get their work to a bigger audience.

“It’s exciting that people would actually be able to see what we are doing, small scale research wise and it being related to much bigger picture issue,” said Brander.

Brander and Monteleone agree that they would like people to take away a better understanding of what ocean pollution does to the environment and ourselves.

“I hope they get out of this film that we can make those connections that what we do to the planet, we do to ourselves,” said Monteleone. “So it’s in our best interest to reduce our consumptions of plastics.”

According to the film’s website the film is expected to come out this year but a release date hasn’t been set yet.