Pathogens easily grow on plastics, and plastics travel far and wide in the ocean. That has marine biologists like Joleah Lamb looking for solutions. This podcast dives deep into the complex world of aquatic ecology and biodiversity and how our actions impact it.
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Joleah Lamb is an assistant professor in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology School of Biological Sciences with the University of California, Irvine. She runs their Oceans and Human Health Laboratory, which focuses on solutions in a research-driven program at the interface of public health and ecosystem function.
She gives listeners a wakeup call: the global population is expected to surpass 9.7 billion people by 2050, and more than half will live within 80 kilometers of a coastline. We know about the ocean’s impact on humans, but most also consider the reverse. From microorganism on coral reefs to biofilms that might be introduced through tiny pieces of plastic in the ocean, scientists like Dr. Lamb are thinking carefully about how these systems may clash.
Only two years ago, she says that scientists didn’t even have a number about the amount of plastics going in and settling on sea floor and corals. Through careful surveys, they have found that corals with plastics touching them had a 20 fold increase of contracting a disease. This was the first study to show that plastics that were in contact with animals could cause a disease outbreak.
She also shares some remarkable findings about sea grasses and environmental microbiology. Seagrasses are the rainforest of the marine environment and capture even more carbon than trees. They’ve found that seagrasses can actually kill human pathogens, and areas with seagrasses show a healthier water column.
Listen in for more ways scientists like Joleah Lamb are working for a better ecology.
For more about her work, see her lab’s website: oceanhealth.bio.
Available on Apple Podcasts: apple.co/2Os0myK