Glossary: Plankton, Plastics and Poo

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This glossary supports teachers and students with some of the technical language used in the Plankton, Plastics and Poo unit.

Accuracy: is a way of measuring how close a measurement is to the true value. The more accurate a result is, the closer it is to the true value.

Algae: plant-like life that lack the structures that plants have, such as leaves and roots. Algae includes small, single-celled examples known as micro-algae, and larger, often multi-celled examples such as seaweed, known as macro-algae.

Bias: a sample is biased when it does not truly reflect the whole population.

Bioaccumulation: the build-up of contaminants in organisms’ tissues increases with trophic level.

Cod end: the instrument attached to the end of a trawling net to collect plastic debris or zooplankton.

Convergence zone: an area where strong ocean currents meet. These areas are often very biologically productive.

Copepod: a type of small shrimp-like plankton that performs an important role in the marine food web and carbon cycle. They are incredibly abundant, with an estimated 1,347 billion billion of them in the worlds’ oceans.

Cruise: the name to given to a research voyage at sea. It may sound like a tropical holiday, but it is completely different.

Dose: the amount of a chemical in a organisms’ tissues.

Gyre: a large system of rotating ocean currents, particularly those involved with surface winds.

Microplastic: plastic fragments that are less than 5mm across. They can consist of nurdles and larger items that have degraded.

Neuston net: a special type of net used to trawl the surface waters for evidence of plastics and plankton.

Nurdle: a small plastic bead used in the manufacturing process of plastic products, typically measuring less than 5mm across. Sometimes known as mermaid’s tears when they are found washed up on beaches.

Persistent chemicals: chemicals that remain in the environment over long periods of time because they do not break down.

Phytoplankton: microscopic plants and algae that drift on the ocean currents.

Representative: a sample is representative if it is a true reflection of the whole population. Representative samples can be used to predict accurately features of the whole population.

Sample: a subset of a population.

Trawl: scientists use nets to collect data from the ocean. The use of these nets is known as trawling. These can be towed through surface waters such as the neuston nets in this research or different nets can be lowered deeper into the ocean, depending on the research being conducted.

Trophic cascade: trophic cascades occur when the change in the population density or removal of one species in a food chain has a knock on effect on the other species in the chain.

Zooplankton: small and microscopic eggs, larvae and animals that drift on the ocean currents.