5 Gyres Visits IMS and Takes Student on a Deep Dive into Ocean Pollution and Global Health.

This week, we were very fortunate to have the co-founders of 5 Gyres spend two days on our campus, sharing their knowledge and leading campus-wide educational experiences. 5 Gyres is a science-based pioneer in ocean plastic pollution research and exploration, founded in 2009 by Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins. Through scientific research that has led them on explorations around the world, 5 Gyres has published comprehensive data on the extraordinary amount of plastics permeating our oceans, and has spearheaded movements across the globe to find viable solutions.  

On the Lower Campus, Marcus and Anna led our young students through dissecting albatross boluses. Separating items by color, it was astonishing to discover the human-made items the birds had swallowed, including a fully intact lightbulb and a lighter. On the Upper Campus, students performed a trash audit, creating a full visual of single use, non-degradable items like snack wrappers and bottles. Students were fascinated, frustrated, inspired, and motivated. They asked a lot of questions and offered ideas for ways to reduce waste.

“Seeing the contents of what we throw away laid out on the ground, then counting and categorizing all of it, really forces us to pay attention,” said Tom Stewart, our Director of Sustainability Programming and Initiatives. “The kids were given a better understanding that when we throw things away, there is no ‘away.’ The items that don’t biodegrade completely will end up in our oceans one day.” 

Speaking to our students, Marcus said, “Plastic is everywhere and it hurts animals, the ecosystem, and us. But, the power of science, collaboration, and patience is a force to be reckoned with. Every one of you can drive change because small steps lead to big ones.”

Anna added, “There’s such diversity of plastic use: in our containers, clothes, cars, and agriculture. So there’s no one size fits all solution. It’s about changing outdated systems in different sectors of society.”

Later in the evening, while hosting a screening of the documentary “Junk Raft” with IMS parents at The Moviehouse in Millerton, a repeated question was, “How do you stay optimistic?” To which the team from 5 Gyres responded, “We are more optimistic now than when we started all those years ago. If you know the problems, you can find the solutions.”