Seas the Day

World-leading experts from University of Plymouth’s Marine Institute explored one of the global challenges facing our planet: how to protect our seas. 

Families were invited to the National Marine Aquarium to hear from scientists working to protecting our coastal environment.

Bringing together scientists, artists and psychologists, this event also invited you to take part in a competition to make artwork from ordinary plastic, have a go at being the best litter picker in a timed litter pick and test the buoyancy of plastics 

This event took place on 25 September 2021 at the National Marine Aquarium as part of FUTURES2021

Morning programme

A collection of live talks where our researchers shared their expertise on the issues of marine plastics and climate change.

10:00–10:30: Marine litter – are there solutions to this environmental challenge? Professor Richard Thompson OBE, Marine Biology and Director of the Marine Institute

Of all the litter in the ocean, an estimated 75% is plastic. Plastic has been found on most coastlines, in the deep sea and even Arctic sea ice and has been shown to harm marine life. So what are the sources of all this waste and what are the solutions to stemming the flow of plastic to the sea?

10:30–11:00: Why we care if climate change affects recycling by sandhoppersProfessor John Spicer, Marine Zoology

Can you imagine paying to go sandhopper-watching on a beach in the same way as you go whale-watching on a boat? Didn’t think so. But give John 15 minutes of your time to show you creatures that can jump high buildings in a single bound, cannot read a newspaper but can eat it in less than a minute, and were doing recycling for us and everything that lives in the ocean long before the first human formed the word ‘recycle’ (in fact any word) in their mouth.

11:00–12:00: Can extreme animals help conserve our oceans?Ellis Moloney

Tardigrades and rotifers are little-known super animals that can survive boiling temperatures, extreme radiation and even the vacuum of space! Ellis will share his research, which looks into how their genes allow them to survive such extremes and could potentially be shared with more sensitive organisms to help conserve them under a changing climate (like coral reefs for example).

Afternoon programme

13:00–15:00: The Big Marine Family Afternoon

Hands-on activities that explored the marine environment, why it’s important and some challenges it faces, for littles and grownups alike.

  • All plastic floats, right?!
    Come along and have a go at identifying different types of plastic, discovering what they’re made of and investigating their buoyancy properties. Take part in this wet play to test whether all plastic floats. For the younger audience, we will be looking at the buoyancy of various plastic items that have washed up on the shore local to Plymouth. 
  • Rubbish art
    Competition time! Your challenge is to create a temporary work of art using rubbish (which has been cleaned!). This artwork will be photographed, printed and displayed. The rubbish will be reused by others to create their own artworks too. Extra points are available if your artwork fits within the theme of plastics in the ocean. 
  • Ready, set, pick!
    Think you’re quick? Then have a go at our timed litter pick and see if you can make it onto our top pickers leaderboard.
These activities will be facilitated by Seadream Education CIC.

  • Precious Plastic – Plymouth and Tavistock
    How does plastic get recycled? Try your hand at shredding and melting plastic to create something new.
  • Ocean Scientist
    Conduct an experiment on the qualities of salt water to investigate the relationship between salt and buoyancy, examine real ocean specimens like mermaid's purses, shark jaws and turtle shells, and explore the different feeding techniques used by basking sharks, humpback whales, butterflyfish and seahorses to catch plankton.
  • Plastic Seas
    How do scientists make new discoveries? Use virtual reality headsets to explore the Midnight Zone and discover what creatures of the deep eat. Then take a shopping challenge to find out how eco-friendly products are and which choices are the most positive for our oceans.

  • Coral Calamity
    Swim virtually through a coral reef and learn all about these important habitats, where they are in the world and how they are affected by climate change in an immersive undersea experience. 

These activities will be facilitated by the National Marine Aquarium.

  • Digital Undersea Worlds with Andy Hughes
    Keen gamers can explore undersea worlds found in No Man’s Sky and Grand Theft Auto V with the University of Plymouth’s Creative Associate Andy Hughes. You can digitally swim through and navigate beautifully rendered virtual seas and future alien oceanic worlds as seen through the eyes of a game avatar.

Marine Institute

Marine Institute 

The University’s Marine Institute is the first and largest such institute in the UK. 

We provide the external portal to our extensive pool of world-leading experts and state-of-the-art facilities, enabling us to understand the relationship between the way we live, the seas that surround us and the development of sustainable policy solutions. 

We are integrating our multidisciplinary expertise in marine and maritime research, education and innovation to train new scientists, engineers, policy-makers, artists, technicians and business managers of the future. 

Find out more about the institute and our research, education and facilities


24 and 25 September 2021

A festival of discovery where you can explore the past, create the present and imagine the future

FUTURES2021 brought research to life in new and exciting ways online and in-person, with events from storytelling to panel discussions, comedy, quizzes, broadcasts and more. Attendees joined researchers from the Universities of Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol, Bath and Bath Spa University to explore topics such as history, health, marine, robotics and the arts.

More info on the University of Plymouth's FUTURES2021 events


FUTURES2021 is funded by the European Commission under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions and delivered collaboratively by the University of Bath, Bath Spa University, the University of Bristol, the University of Exeter and the University of Plymouth.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 101036029.