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Heriot-Watt University has formed a five year partnership with the Ocean Youth Trust Scotland (OYTS) to encourage young people to gain life skills through scientific research.

In a unique collaboration, young people sailing on OYTS voyages around the west coast of Scotland, will record marine litter and collect samples for microplastic analysis by the university.

Ocean Youth Trust Scotland is Scotland’s national sailing charity and runs over 70 youth voyages annually. 

Heriot-Watt academics are currently undertaking leading-edge research into microplastic pollution to create a database that will aid the Scottish Government’s policy aimed at reducing marine plastic litter.

The focus on the marine environment is part of the university’s Year of Sea campaign.

Now, both organisations will work together, to help the young people to build essential life skills while contributing to important research in the fight against plastics in the ocean.

Dr. Mark Hartl, Director of the Centre for Marine Biodiversity & Biotechnology at Heriot-Watt said: “We’re delighted to engage Ocean Youth Trust Scotland in our research and look forward to working with the young crews.

“This is a natural alliance that is hugely beneficial to both organisations. Heriot Watt will gain valuable data which would otherwise not be collected and the young people on the voyages can learn new skills in scientific sample collection.

“We are also opening up a view on science at work in real-life.”

Nick Fleming, Ocean Youth Trust Scotland CEO said: “Working with Heriot-Watt is part of our Partnership programme where we are forming new relationships with business and educational organisations to create practical learning experiences for young people from all backgrounds.

“Marine litter is a global problem - known to the sailing community for many years - but which is only recently became a widespread public concern.

“No-one really knows the extent of plastic pollution in the marine environment and food-chain. Contributing to Dr Hartl’s research is an important step in the promotion of science and STEM subjects whilst providing real research data.

“The young people will take the skills they learn into their future, whilst helping to understand and protect the rich marine environment of Scotland’s West coast.”

Sample collection is already underway on voyages from Oban and in the Clyde estuary with first samples collected from St.Kilda and the Outer Hebrides.

The OYTS helps 800 participants a year from schools and youth groups to gain essential life skills and qualifications. Voyages are organised for those at risk of poor educational outcomes, young carers, young leader programmes and on the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.