Teach Me About the Great Lakes

We speak with Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza about chemistry, microplastics, and lots of garbage.

Show Notes

More micro plastics with Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza, professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin - Superior
Host & Executive Producer: Stuart Carlton
Co-host: Megan Gunn
Producers: Hope Charters, Carolyn Foley, Megan Gunn, & Irene Miles
Associate Producer: Ethan Chitty
Music by Stuart Carlton

Creators & Guests

Stuart Carlton
Stuart Carlton is the Assistant Director of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program. He manages the day-to-day operation of IISG and works with the IISG Director and staff to coordinate all aspects of the program. He is also a Research Assistant Professor and head of the Coastal and Great Lakes Social Science Lab in the Department of Forestry & Natural Resources at Purdue, where he and his students research the relationship between knowledge, values, trust, and behavior in complex or controversial environmental systems.

What is Teach Me About the Great Lakes?

A monthly podcast in which Stuart Carlton (a native New Orleanian) asks smart people to teach him about the Great Lakes. Co-hosted by the awesome staff at Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant.

Disclaimer: This is an automated transcript, we apologize for any errors. If you notice any problems, please email the show at teachmeaboutthegreatlakes@gmail.com. Thank you.

Stuart Carlton 0:00
teach me about the Great Lakes teach me about the Great Lakes. Welcome back to teach me about the Great Lakes a podcast in which I A Great Lakes novice get people who are smarter and harder working than I am to teach me all about the Great Lakes. My name is Stuart Carlton and I work with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and I'm lucky this week to be joined again by Megan Gunn. Megan, what is up?

Megan Gunn 0:23
Nothing much. I'm missing the sunshine. But other than that things are good.

Stuart Carlton 0:26
Yeah, this is the second day in a row, I think where it said it was gonna be sunny all day, and then it rained. I feel like that is suboptimal, we will have to invite our friend Tom coons back on to be read him about that. Well, great, Megan. I'm really excited today, because we're going to talk a little bit more about chemistry, which I know nothing about. And microplastics, which I know a little bit about, thanks to our very first episode of teaching about the Great Lakes. And I'm really excited because our guest today is Lorena Rios Mendoza she is a professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin superior. But the main reason I'm excited is because she qualifies as a researcher, which means we can use the researcher feature theme so let's hear it.

Race researcher researcher teaches about the Great. Awesome, yeah, the longer the pandemic goes, the more songs we get. Lorena Rios Mendoza, Dr. Lurie Rios Mendoza, thank you so much for joining us. How are you today?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 1:36
Good. Thank you for the invitation. And very nice music.

Stuart Carlton 1:39
Oh, yeah. There's a lot more that came from stick around. And so you're a chemist, right? So when I think chemistry, I think of Walter White. And that's it from Breaking Bad. So what is it what does an academic chemists do? Exactly?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 1:55
Okay, you know, that we are doing is just preparing the future chemist, professionals in science, like in biology, medicine and pharmacy, doing research like a microplastic.

Stuart Carlton 2:10
Okay, so let's talk about that research. Like so what is chemistry research? When it comes to micro, I don't even know like, like, you go out and you collect water and you look for plastic in it, or what is the research look like?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 2:21
Okay, and in my research that I'm working is with the environmental chemistry, pollution, and they're now the main topic for us is the microplastic. And we collected the plastic from the sun on the beaches, or we can collect the plastic from the surface water in the Great Lakes and in the ocean. And we're using a net that we call it the manta troll and we call it the manta because it's very similar to the manta rays, the huge animal in the ocean. Yeah. And the size of the net is the 333 micrometers. That is exactly the same site that this animal feel there. The water man, a troll. Yeah. You know, the people is asking why is this size of because it's the Manta.

Stuart Carlton 3:13
So hopefully, I Not gonna lie, it's been a bit so help me understand how big 333 micrometers is. Yeah.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 3:21
You know, one centimeter has 10 millimeters. one millimeter has 1000 micrometer.

Stuart Carlton 3:32
Oh, so this is like a third of a millimeter. Yes.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 3:35
And then these mean is microscopic.

Megan Gunn 3:39
And it's not just pushing water as it's going through the water column

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 3:45
is filled up. And then all the solid, bigger than the size is retaining it. And the net.

Stuart Carlton 3:51
Interesting. As you said, you worked in the ocean. Right? So you did was that on the North Pacific garbage patch where you did that work?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 3:58
Yes. Mainly, I'm working in the Pacific Ocean. I have some sample for The Atlantic, but the Pacific is my favorite. Why? Because it's Pacific. And the North Pacific gyre is one area between Long Beach and Hawaii. And this is the water it is just doing like our circles and the seas forming because it's the high pressure in the system and then the water and the very high point of the pressure looks like a mirror. Okay, you know what I did like a payroll and this is the problem because this is why I can concentrate all the of debris, you know, the plastic

Stuart Carlton 4:41
because the water circling around so much and it just kind of sucks all that stuff in one place, right?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 4:45
Yes, exactly. And there's no just one point, you know, is moving in the ocean.

Stuart Carlton 4:51
Oh, it moves around. Yeah. Over what?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 4:55
Between this area, you know, because it's unfortunate to the how the wind is more We'll be in how the pressure is changing. Yeah.

Megan Gunn 5:02
Does the garbage ever fall off of the edges?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 5:08
is so difficult this, this is why it's

Stuart Carlton 5:13
also, it's just growing over time then as more and more garbage because we're not putting less garbage in the ocean, I would assume. So the patch just gets bigger and bigger. Alright.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 5:23
It's really big. Yes, you can think is two times the size of the Texas estate. Oh, wow. Yeah,

Stuart Carlton 5:32
I was in Texas before I started the Illinois-Indiana. Sea Grant, I worked for Texas Sea Grant. And I remember you can drive in Texas, this is not a joke. If you're in the middle of Texas, you can drive for a day in any direction and still be in Texas.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 5:47
And then this is two times, two times

Stuart Carlton 5:49
you could drive two days in any direction and sit and still be in the middle of the garbage patch. Oh, my goodness. And so what kind of research do you do out there? Do you? I mean, so you're studying the plastic? Do you like look for different compositions? What kind of plastics it is? Or what are the effects of the plastic?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 6:05
Yeah, you know, my mind that I'm saying, I'm working with the environmental chemistry, pollution and with the persistent organic pollutants, this means synthetic compounds that are toxic, that can cause cancer. So that I was working in the sediment and then the Captain Charles Moore from the alga Lita Marine Research Foundation from Long Beach that he was that discovered this patch. He say, you know, I want to study the blessing Do you want to study and I say no, who wants to study plastic you know, the beautiful what's going on with you? When they he said is because I found that a lot is like God, you know, is the garbage is like I just everybody's dumping the plastic there? And I say Yeah, but what is the problem just It's just plastic, you know, it's just garbage and the plastic are the composition of the plastic is huge polymer like a huge change are compounds that are so heavy that helped prohibit interact with the cell membrane. This is why we were thinking isn't it you know, is no problem for the human and then he's a year but we need to check what's going on with this and I say okay, give me the money. And then I can study whatever I want. He said yes, you study wherever you want. And I will do the same work with the sediment in plastic. And is when I found that the plastic behave like a sediment this mean they absorb of this toxic compounds. But what is the difference? The sediments going in the in the deep, you know, in the very deep in the lake in the ocean? In the bottom, but and then the plus this is fluorine. Now we have a new source of these toxic compounds available to organics. Yes, because they are flooring and everything that is floating in the water is food.

Stuart Carlton 8:06
I see So now I get it. So this is I think I get it tell me if I'm right. So so so essentially you thought initially that this was not a problem that was inert it wasn't gonna absorb it turns out it does very similar how it sediment does, but it's floating and therefore I don't know. Pacific animals will eat it whether it's a I don't know a shark or a turtle whatever else they have otters in the Pacific I don't even know what else they have probably not out there but and they'll eat it and then all sudden you're talking about it cascading up the food chain potentially right

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 8:35
and then now the plastic is smaller the size can concentrate more toxic compounds. Really Yeah. And then in the Pacific Ocean we found that huge big items of plastic and we found that smaller but when I went to the heat in the Great Lakes that we found that was the microbeads from cosmetic products and there are tiny tiny this mean can concentrate more than 1 million times of the concentration of the toxic compounds in the water and then you can think two fittings yes one okay the plastic is good because and then this mean is concentrated all the toxic components and then can clean the water oh, I didn't think about that. Sure. Sure. Yeah. And it's true they can do it but now how we say how we tell to the animals don't eat it because are bad

Stuart Carlton 9:31
so if you could act like a sponge and soak up all the compounds that would be good but but we can't contain it.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 9:39
Yes, exactly. But and then they can eat it one small piece with very high concentration of toxic compounds.

Stuart Carlton 9:46
And is do we know if this if this is then moving up the food chain or we just know it has the potential then there's still research to be done to find out if it if it actually knows

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 9:54
they can do it. They can where they can go to the you know this the smaller or animal can consume. And then the bigger edit, edit, and so on. So on. That only thing that we don't know is how long take what is the kinetics, you know how long tape from the toxic compounds in the surface of the plastic go to the tissue to the organisms. And then they can damage the endocrine system in the organist thinking in the feech. But and then when we eat it the feech We don't know if the problem go with us, or the problem stop on the beach.

Megan Gunn 10:32
So I guess one way to avoid all this is to not just throw your garbage on the beach, right? But can we just just take the garbage out of the garbage patch? How does that work? Has anybody tried to remove it?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 10:44
You know, I was thinking this is crazy how we can do it, you know, but some young people is thinking outside the box. Yeah. And in Europe, they are Netherlands, they are thinking like out form. I was thinking first Oh, we can have a magic vacuum pump and take it up on the plastic. No, yeah. But then they put it this like a buoys, you know that I tried to clean in and put it all together. The plastic? That is good idea. Yeah. But the problem is here, who is paying for the boat? Yeah. Now, we can think in another solution. Okay, we can build one boat that can use the solar panel, you know, and then could be totally automatic. And then pick it up all the garbage? Yes. Now what we're doing with the garbage? Who wants to take care about it? You know, because the plastic cannot be easily recycled. Because it's so expensive. Yeah. And then we are in that situation. But I didn't at least you know, the people who started to thinking, try to find solutions.

Stuart Carlton 11:57
So some creativity involved in that. Yeah, thank goodness, because it's not like, I mean, plastic doesn't go anywhere. At least not in any timescale that matters for let's face it me, who is the one I'm most interested in when it comes to this? And so that's on the North Pacific, though, fortunately, we live in the Great Lakes where there are no garbage patches, right.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 12:18
And no, no, no, however, you know, the word is moving and is moving in is about what is the wind sun? What is a citizen? Yes. And then come form like small gyres where we have the accumulation of the plastic. And then we can have a sometimes accumulation Yeah.

Stuart Carlton 12:41
Is there a significant amount of that across the Great Lakes? Or is it just is it intermittent? How does that work?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 12:46
You know, hitting the Lake Superior is so huge and big. And then the now in my time that people say the, the dilution is the solution. And then this is so big that you really cannot see it. higher concentration of the plastic, but Lake Erie, for example. In this lake, you can find everything. Yeah. And then the concentration of the lake area still when they are low concentration in density of plastic. The plastic is so small, and contain very high concentration of toxic compounds. And then if you eat at one fish from Lake Erie, and do it in one feed from Atlantic or Pacific Ocean, you have a higher probability to ingest toxic compounds from Lake Erie than from Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean.

Megan Gunn 13:44
Wow. It's kind of gross.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 13:49
Yeah, and this is why we need to protect the Great Lakes because you know, it's not just the source of the food is the water.

Megan Gunn 13:57
Yeah, are these garbage patches in just a specific great lake? Or is it in all of the Great Lakes? Do they?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 14:06
In all the Oh, it's still one superior? Is it clean? Is Lake has plastic? Yeah. And I know the Lake Ontario, I don't know yet. You know, but I think this is the last Lake and is the most contaminated. Why? Because everything the water is moving and scored there.

Stuart Carlton 14:25
Geez. So is there, you know, we have a lot of people are trying to be entrepreneurial or creative and trying to remove the plastic but, you know, are there other things that we can do to kind of prevent it from getting worse? You know, you see like metal straws or reusable bags. Does that kind of stuff make a difference? Or I'll admit I'm skeptical about that making a big difference. But But what do you think about that?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 14:48
Yeah, you know, it's not enough, but it's something Yeah, the number one thing is we need to understand that the plastic is not just the garbage. The plastic is something else. Number one On number two, we don't have the technology how to recycle it. Really the plastic? Yes. Number three. Already Asia closed the doors for or garbage, plastic, because we

Stuart Carlton 15:14
bring it over there and they're saying no now,

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 15:16
yeah. And then the people will start seeing more plastic. Because before don't see it just disappear, you know. And then we need to understand that the plastic, we need to use it with responsibility. And then try to recycle, you know, and reuse and refuse. And always I say use the four R's. recycle, reuse, reduce, and refuse. Don't use plastic if you don't need to use plastic. And I think this is the best because we are the source of the plastic. We the humans. Yeah, the plastic industry will continue producing more plastic. Why? Because we are using.

Stuart Carlton 16:02
And if people are interested in learning more about microplastics I can point you towards the very first episode of TeaTree about the Great Lakes with our own Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. So I'm Sarah Zak, go check that out at teach me about the great lakes.com/one for episode one. That's a number one not a not the letters, the numbers, not the letters. Okay, so now you've got me paranoid about the Great Lakes and plastic and garbage. But I think I think the one point you made that I want to underscore again is it's not just like garbage that leads to it. Right? It's it's, you know, things that are in our microbeads although there are fewer of those because they're not legally more thing. What are other like sources of plastic other than you know, I go and I throw a garbage bag on the beach and I run away? What, what other like what are other sources of this, we might want to think about in terms of using the four R's.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 16:57
You know, this society in all the planet is using mainly two types, kind of plastic, that is polyethylene and polypropylene. This kind of plastic can float in the water is very, the density is very similar to the Great Lakes. But we're using plastic in almost everything that we are using our society was leaping plastic, we eat it in plastic, we're working in plastic, we're doing everything in plastic. In fact, the new people born in plastic, and now with a copy. We have plastic everywhere. And you know, what is the worst thing they say? There is one study that they found that the disarm to the vitals for the COVID 19 can stay in the plastic until three days. Okay. So yeah, and they were using plastic thinking is for protection. And it is not.

Stuart Carlton 17:56
Or it only is then throw it away. Right? Exacerbating. You'll never hear about this I get depressed. I'll be honest, I mean, because of course plastic enables all sorts sorts of amazing things. But boy, is there a cost to it as well.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 18:13
Yeah, you know, when the plastic was invented has a very nice ideas. The main was to reduce the use of the fuel, you know, because it's very light, and cheaper. And all these kind of things were really good, but now we know that it's not. And you know, what is the worst thing that? Honestly, I don't think there is a bacteria in the planet that can destroy the plastic. Yeah, there is some bacteria that can edit some of the components of the plastic products, but not all the total plastic. Because this is from the petroleum. Yeah, and then they can stay here forever and ever, like at the diamonds all the time.

Megan Gunn 18:56
So scientists just need to create a bacteria to eat all

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 19:01
Oh, no, no, no, no, no. We need to find different materials, you know,

Megan Gunn 19:08
let's completely do away with plastic. Yeah,

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 19:11
we need to find something that we can know how we can recycling how we can dispose. This is the main thing. And before remember, we just invented something and we use wanting to know for what we want to use know what happened later. Now, if you want to propose something new, you need to say okay, what is the way that I can recycle and what is the way that I can do away? You know?

Stuart Carlton 19:39
So I'm gonna shift gears a little bit to something else that is maybe even near and dear to my heart than plastic and that is caffeine. Or your website you study caffeine and the environment as well. Can you tell me a little bit about that and how good the coffee I drink every morning is for the lake.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 19:59
You know me Maybe for you is good. They wanted? I don't think so because again, the organisms are not ready for this molecule like the caffeine and in some fish can cows, like some tumors, you know? And problems? Yes, because it's very high concentration. And you don't just the coffee that the people is not drinking and dump it. The young people are using this new beverage with very high concentration in caffeine. You know, and sometimes they use the pills. And I don't know why. But, you know, they have a pretty new battery. And then, but still they are using and there is a lot of caffeine that is dumped into the lake.

Megan Gunn 20:47
So it's sorry, it's not caffeine that our bodies aren't processing is caffeine. And it's just okay.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 20:55
Yeah, because when you drink the caffeine, up different molecule is a little change. And this is not the problem, or at least we don't study yet. What is the problem of this metabolite? But the caffeine? Yes, it's a problem. And sometimes I say to my student that the lakes is like a addictive Lake, you know, because all the kinds of drugs go there. Listen, you listen. And we're drinking that water.

Stuart Carlton 21:27
Addicted kind of Lake, I like it. You make me feel horrible. This whole show, I'm just like I'm destroying these lakes with. That's horrible. Sorry. So one thing you like to focus on a lot is, is sharing your work with kind of like group diverse groups of audiences, right? I know you do scientific conferences, every professor does. But it seems like you also go to outer groups. We have a lot of graduate students, early career researchers who are on this, who listen to this podcast, excuse me, do you want to talk a little bit about why you decide to do that? And whether or not you why you think that's important to do?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 22:07
You know, when we study this size, like me, I ended in the academia, I tried to use all my experience to form the new colleague. Yeah. And I think it's important that every time that we the research that we are doing, we need to show to the community, what are the results? What is that we found it? And it's very important, ladies, the microplastic topic to communicate to the community to how can I say it, educate them that the plastic is not just garbage? You know, it's something else? And then the people who started thinking, oh, yeah, and then, you know, in somehow we need to avoid that the people continue to use it plastic, just because, yeah, but remember that people will use plastic because nobody tells you that is bad. Yeah, see the same for you. Now you know about something about plastic. And when you want to buy it, maybe some product or food that is in plastic, you say, No, I don't want to buy it. And then you start to fill in that is painful. But this is the idea, whatever you found that you need to communicate to everybody

Stuart Carlton 23:23
that's obviously near and dear to our heart at Sea Grant, because we're outreach to an extension organization and sort of taking research and helping connect that to stakeholders is something that's really, really important to us. And so when I saw the work you did there, it made me really happy to see because, you know, yeah, I believe that used science is the best science. Right? And so the work that you're doing, and to take that out is good. Yes. It's

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 23:45
more secret. You know, we need to say it is what it is. Yeah.

Stuart Carlton 23:49
Yeah. Is that hard, though sometimes, like talking to me, because chemistry is really technical. And so, I mean, I changed majors to not take chemistry. Do you find it's hard? Is it hard to have those conversations with the general public? Or are there secrets to that?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 24:10
No, really, you know, because you don't need to tell them about the what is the scientific name? Or what can be reaction is that, you know, you just need to say something that they can connect what's going on with the garbage with this one, toxic compounds or something, you know, you just need to give the information that they you understand that the plastic is bad.

Megan Gunn 24:35
Yeah. So it's easy to definitely express the bad information to younger scientists and those that are coming up. Do you ever have any pushback when you're talking to the general public about why they should be using the four hours with plastic and different practices that we use every day?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 24:55
The main situation, I can tell you is that they Little surprise, they say really the plastic really bad. You know, it's like, every time that I'm talking with the community is something like that. And I say, you know, we are studied this for more than 20 years. And people take it really? Yes. This is one thing. The other thing the young people is saying, well, we can do it. Everything is plastic. I don't know what to do it. The older people say, Oh, yes, we need to go back to the glass, we need to go back to this something, you know, but the young people is like, it's impossible to change.

Stuart Carlton 25:38
If I were smarter about this, which I'm not, I would, I would really get it. So what makes different types of plant like so what? We may end up having to dig this out, but I'm just curious. What even is a plastic let's see if it started like so when things get together your Polly's and your propylene ins, what makes something a plastic and like the most basic level

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 26:03
is just the carbon hydrogen. Okay, combination. And it's just the huge change of this. This is why we call it polymers. You know, is a big part of the structure could be like, a one line or could be like, the line with something in the middle, you know, and this is different kinds of plastic. But the main situation is that when you format the plastic this there forever. Yeah. Way they're so cheap. And so if the plastic looks more like glass, like now we have so beautiful, is very bad. It's very bad. Because contain another chemicals.

Stuart Carlton 26:48
Yep. I remember that. Right. Right around the time we had our first kid was when BPA like became a thing. And it was you know, all those clear plastics had BPA and Santa get rid of anything that BPA or else your children would be mutants and you know, but but so we have so they're just many many configurations of carbon and hydrogen is oh, you said carbon hydrogen atoms.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 27:11
Yes. Hydrogen and they added they call it tallied okay. And make some make soft, the plastic. Compounds are not bonded chemically with the plastic are free. And then when you warm your food in the microwave, that you are doing a stress. Just put it there tolerate from the plastic in your food

Yes, ladies, cows cams.

Megan Gunn 27:45
We recently moved to glass storage containers. So that makes me feel so much better. Yeah.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 27:52
Yeah. To move in, you know, all the time. I went to the $1 store because they have allowed plastic and now they are decreasing. They have more.

Stuart Carlton 28:03
Oh, really? Yeah, that's good. Yeah, it is. I have to revisit there. We bought these glass glasses at IKEA. And they have like the cheap cheap ones. And the less cheap ones. It turns out the cheap cheap ones aren't tempered. So you can break a lot of them. So like this whole thing? Yeah, but now my floor is covered in micro class to keep cutting ourselves. But but so I need to go to the dollar store maybe get higher quality than the cheap glasses I have currently. That's good. Well, Lorena Rios Mendoza. That's all really interesting. But that's actually not the reason why we invited you here on teach me about the Great Lakes. And the reason that we invited you here for these next two questions. Number one, if you could choose to have a great donut for breakfast or a great sandwich for lunch. Which of those would you choose?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 28:52
Oh, so you see, he's a Chicago donut.

Stuart Carlton 28:56
And is there a place so you're at the University of Wisconsin superior? Is that in Superior? What is the city where you are in Superior? Yes.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 29:02
And superior. So yeah, that is good.

Stuart Carlton 29:06
When are you? Yeah, so when I come to visit superior and I want to chocolate donut, where do I go?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 29:12
All you know is in one of the main street and that is the Dawson excuse. They are so good fridge every day.

Stuart Carlton 29:25
Really? All right. I'm googling it right now. Sounds like we need a road trip. So yes, well, I've got a big yes. A dozen excuses. Don't

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 29:34
make a six in the morning. Oh,

Stuart Carlton 29:36
I'm usually up well before then. So that's good. Oh, I'm excited. Oh, look, it's cute. Alright, we'll put a link to that in the show notes. We'll put a link to a whole bunch of things in the show notes. Actually, what you can visit by going to teach me about the great lakes.com/fifteen Because this is episode 15 somehow Time flies. Yeah, that's awesome. Or just look down at your phone or podcast player and you'll probably see the show notes there. Great job. We go into a dozen excuses next time I'm up in your neck of the woods. And the second question is, what is one piece of life advice that you have for listeners that can be big or little serious or silly? You know, it doesn't matter. We've had people quote RuPaul we've had people tell us what they might tell their kids. You know, anything you think is good life advice, so that everybody can take away something positive, in addition to feeling horrible about what they're doing to the lake.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 30:26
Yeah, you know, I have an in mind, I have a two and the one is that I told you already is the four R's with the my February is refuse to use the plastic if you don't need to use it. And I know with this COVID situation is very hard. But please think we need to avoid the plastic in the most possible. And the second, you know, is always something I'm told to my students a if you problem has a solution, don't worry, you know, but you probably don't have a solution. Don't worry. Yeah, happy by now that you need to do is just Please wear your mask, because we need it.

Stuart Carlton 31:08
There we go. I think those are three excellent pieces of life. Crusade, all three of those. Lorena Rios Mendoza, if people want to find out more about you, or your work, where's the best place for them to go? Is that a website or social media? Or what? Where can they go?

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 31:24
And now I think just in their website to the university, you know, I'm older generation I don't have online female

Stuart Carlton 31:33
explains why you are a professor of chemistry. And I am a host of a podcast. Well, Loreena Rios Mendoza, thank you so much for coming on, and teaching us all about the Great Lakes.

Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza 31:44
I'll talk a little about the plastic.

Stuart Carlton 31:57
That's really wonderful. We're so glad that Lorina could come on and teach us a lot about the chemistry related to some of these microplastics? Because I mean, this is not an issue. That's, that's going away. Is it anytime soon? Yeah. And so you know, since the second time we talked about it, but I think there are many more times in our, in our future, because it's just, it's gonna be a problem and, you know, potentially a growing problem over time. And so, but I'll be honest, I do feel a little bit positive about it. Megan, like, because you hear you know, again, I'm suspicious of the straws because I think that's a nice way to feel good. And we have metal straws, of course. Lots of metal straws, but but our strokes are very metal. But but you know, I'm suspicious that that's going to make a difference. I think just because what she's saying is that a lot of the plastic is in garbage. Exactly. It comes from other sources. So I do feel optimistic, long term. But I think there's a lot of work to be done there.

Megan Gunn 32:51
And I know there was a huge shift to using plastic straws, or sorry to not using plastic straws and using paper straws and restaurants. But I traveled recently. And they they offered plastic straws wherever we went.

Stuart Carlton 33:03
Yeah, yeah. So there's a lot of work to be done to be done, even though even it gets some of these small victories that maybe could add up over time. Well, so what is something you learned about the Great Lakes today?

Megan Gunn 33:13
Oh, my goodness, Stewart, pretty much all the things. Everything I learned was new. But the things that that really hit home were that the smaller the plastic, the more toxic are concentrated within them. That blew my mind, which means all these microplastics that we're trying to fight. They're just little toxic balls.

Stuart Carlton 33:35
Yeah, that's a little toxic balls. Yes. And that's not good. You don't want to be you don't want to ingest little toxic balls at all. Or anyway. And yeah, that is definitely something I think is interesting. And the thing I learned today was that they're like over 60,000 kinds of plastic and something I'd like to Yeah, something I want to learn more about in the future. I guess we could have asked her we'll follow up with is. So I mean, these are probably categorized into like big classes, but like, is this something we have to think about each individual one to kind of knock them out one at a time? Here's a replacement for each of these are, you know, are we going to be able to develop materials that can kind of take care of whole swaths of these? And I don't I don't know the answer there. But I think it would probably be important.

Megan Gunn 34:18
And either plastics were using a combination of all the 6000 Yeah.

Stuart Carlton 34:25
Tune into some other future episode where I'm sure we will continue to talk about this. If nothing else, because we want to have Sarah Zack back on. So I encourage you to check out that episode did teach me about the great lakes.com/one I also encourage you to follow the show on social media where at Twitter at Teach Great Lakes which sometimes I remember sometimes I don't and you can follow Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant on Twitter and a lot of other social media at i l i n Sea Grant for Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and somebody was asking see is spelled like the ocean, not like the letter Oh, man, where can people go to find out more about what you do?

Megan Gunn 35:03
You can follow me on Twitter at underscore t f f p. Or you can also find me on Instagram at the familiar faces project.

Stuart Carlton 35:12
There we go and go there to find out more about the great work that Meghan is doing. And with that, we'll see you Oh, I I meant to mention this at the top. So I mentioned at the end, it's little bonus for those of you who have not tuned out yet, which is probably multiple dozens of you. This is an exactly monthly podcast. As you know, we are always released on exactly the first Monday, but I am happy to announce that we are now going to try not always succeed but try to also release an episode on the third Monday of the month. So what I'm saying is the first Monday of every month, the third Monday of some months, and so this if I didn't screw up the Release Calendar is the first Monday of August, which is August 3. So to Mackin on August 17, and we may have another episode, and if we do we look forward to talking to them and if we don't well, we look forward to seeing you on down the line. And with that thank you for listening and keep greatin' those lakes!