Linn Merethe Brekke Olsen, originally from Bømlo, is a master's student at the Centre for Geobiology at the University of Bergen. She will now return to Bergen and write her master's thesis on "Disintegration of hydrothermal sulphide deposits," which forms part of the EU-financed MIDAS project. In summer 2016 she was one of 18 students who worked at NGI and received 2.5 months' relevant practice within Environmental Technology at the department of Water and Resources.

"I was given real tasks from day one and excellent follow-up and support in new challenges. And I got to work in a lab! I have primarily worked on a major research project on microplastics. The challenges in this field are formidable and we have only just started dealing with all the issues represented by large concentrations of microplastics both offshore and onshore," says Linn Merethe.

Microplastics are plastic materials smaller than 5 mm that can cause major environmental problems offshore and onshore. The net weight  of the actual microplastics is variable and  can change over time in the sea, for example, when microplastics are covered in algae. And microplastics come in many different forms – flakes, beads, fibres and all combinations in between. Thus, it is demanding work to quantify the dispersal, decomposition and sinking of microplastics in the sea. It is these kinds of challenges that Linn Merete has worked on and contributed to through the summer.

Relevant and important tasks

"I have learnt so much! And I have taken part in new developments in a field that is very meaningful and important to me. I come from a place that is close to the sea in Bømlo, Western Norway and couldn't help but notice how many places show signs of plastic pollution. Both large flakes and microplastics. The plastic breaks down into smaller particles over time but never disappears completely and of course we don't know what effect it has on our eco system.

Through her summer job, Linn Merethe has grown confident with laboratory work. The summer student has also been out in the field and taken samples back to the laboratory, thereby seeing and participating in the entire work process: from the field, lab and to reporting.

"It has been really wonderful to work with my boss, Hans Peter Arp, who is NGI's project manager on the WEATHER-MIC project. There are also all my colleagues here in the lab – as well as the rest of NGI. I really enjoy working here. I feel that my work and contribution through the summer have not just been about learning and experience for me, but have also been of value to the project. And that feels good," Linn explains.

"I actually don't want to leave NGI now. I would rather take NGI with me to Bergen – if I could!" "To other Geoscience students who may be wondering where and how to find an interesting summer job, I would offer the following advice: Challenge yourself! Show enthusiasm and interest and take a chance by submitting a proactive application. You have to find your own path, concludes the enthusiastic master's degree student.

SOME FACTS: 

WEATHER MIC logo

NGI participates in the R&D project WEATHER-MIC (http://www.jpi-oceans.eu/weather-mic/aims-and-objectives), which is a collaboration between five institutions (http://www.jpi-oceans.eu/weather-mic/partners). The main objective of WEATHER-MIC is "To assess how weathering processes influence the transport, fate and toxicity of microplastics (MPs) and their leachates in the marine environment."

The project is structured in 8 complementary work packages (http://www.jpi-oceans.eu/weather-mic/project-activities). NGI is responsible for two of these. This includes, for example, developing methods to quantify the dispersal, decomposition and sinking of microplastics in the sea.

The Research Council of Norway supports NGI's contribution to the project (Project no. 257433 E40.)