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Alex Aves has found plastic in some of the most remote places on Earth

Have you ever thought about where our plastic is ending up? You might have heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vortex way out in the Pacific Ocean where marine debris accumulates. While it may not look like much from the surface, underneath the water plastics break down into smaller and smaller pieces. These plastics may never biodegrade completely. We call these tiny pieces of plastic microplastics.

A bowl of microplastics on the beach
Plastic debris can come in all shapes and sizes, but those that are less than five millimetres in length (about the size of a sesame seed) are called “microplastics.”

Another place far away from human civilisation that microplastics are ending up - is in Antarctica. Scientists have found that the problem may be worse when we thought. These small bits of plastic are not just in the water, they're in the air too.

Meet Alex Aves, an environmental scientist at the centre of this research, who has travelled all the way to Antarctica to uncover world first evidence that microplastics can be found in snow from even the most remote locations on Earth.

Alex Aves, Environmental Science PhD student

Open access to Alex's recently published paper can be found here

Plastic Oceans were so lucky to have Alex take over our Instagram yesterday for National Science Week in Australia. She told us about her unique life as an Environmental Scientist, and how she got to uncover this research.

Most of Alex's work takes place at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch New Zealand.

Our scientist hails from Australia. Before moving to New Zealand to study, Alex attended the University of Technology in Sydney, studying a Bachelor of Environmental Science.

She shares on her takeover the different ways that her findings have been communicated, on major news websites and networks. This is an important part of informing local and international policy on plastics. Without public knowledge, it's difficult to create change.

Alex will continue this much needed research under a doctoral scholarship from the institute Antarctica New Zealand.

We hope to hear more from Alex as she delves deeper into this research over the next two years! Check out Plastic Oceans stories on Instagram here for a close up look at the journey Alex has been on with this research. If you miss it, you'll find it in our highlights.

In the spirit of National Science Week we want to inspire others to study science and uncover ground-breaking research like Alex. There is lots of work waiting for you in the world of science!

If you want to ask Alex Aves a question, message us at


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