Made out of baby tights, soda pop bottles, and other inexpensive and easy-to-find materials, BabyLegs is a trawl that can be used to monitor floating microplastics from the surface of the water in your local ocean, lake, river, stream, or canal.
Does your water have plastics? How many? What kind? Where are they coming from? BabyLegs can help you find out.
The kit is designed to be easy to assemble and cost as little as possible so that anyone can use it. It makes for a great classroom project, as well as an accessible tool for measuring local microplastic pollution.
Use it outside
BabyLegs can be used in many different places. Drag it from a boat, hang it from a bridge or use it by hand from a dock to collect a sample for analysis.
Images: assembly illustration by Paulina Kowalska. Photos by Dr. Max Liboiron and Public Lab.
Dr. Max Liboiron, the CLEAR feminist science laboratory & Public Lab
Of the 5.25 trillion pieces of marine plastics in the world's oceans, 92% are less than 5mm in size (Eirksen et al., 2014) making them part of shorelines, underwater environments, waterscapes, and even food webs. This makes microplastics an environmental justice issue as people who eat marine mammals or who depend upon fish for sustenance are more likely to carry high toxic burdens.
BabyLegs is one of several open source instruments for monitoring marine plastics created by Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a feminist and anti-colonial marine science laboratory. CLEAR works to put the values of equity, humility, and justice into all of their scientific practices, from creating tools to ordering supplies to hiring members. Rather than rushing to the "frontiers" of science and assuming access to land for research (which would be colonial), BabyLegs is built for CLEAR's own remote, northern environment using local tools, and was originally used to see if plastics from sewage outfalls matched plastics found in sustenance food webs that lab members and their families depend upon. If you want to see more about how CLEAR foregrounds feminist and anti-colonial values and practices in science, see their website https://civiclaboratory.nl/
Public Lab is an open community which develops and applies open-source tools to environmental exploration and investigation. By democratizing inexpensive and accessible "Do-It-Yourself" techniques, Public Lab creates a collaborative network of practitioners who actively re-imagine the human relationship with the environment.
CLEAR and Public Lab are pleased to work together based on our shared values to bring BabyLegs to more people! Your contribution allows us to make a BabyLegs kit to make sourcing easier, support an online community of users (including access to the scientists who built BabyLegs), and scientific validation of the tool.