57– Dust. Janice Brahney explains how synthetic materials are driven into a natural phenomenon

November 03, 2021 Utah State University Office of Research Episode 57
57– Dust. Janice Brahney explains how synthetic materials are driven into a natural phenomenon
Show Notes Transcript

Email requests flooded Janice Brahney's inbox after publishing a paper in the June 2020 edition of Science. She had discovered microplastic in atmospheric dust. In this episode, she talks about how she handled her flooded inbox. You'll hear how she made this discovery. Listen to this episode to understand how phosphorus-laden dust affects watersheds across western states and how microplastic-laden dust changed Janice Brahney's life.    

Wyatt Archer: [00:00:00] Dust. What is dust mean to you versus what dust means to me? 

Janice Brahney: Um, so you're probably thinking about dust in your home. Um, dust to me is any particulate that's in the atmosphere up until recently, I would have said it's made up of minerals and organic matter. But as of a few years ago, I know now that it's also made of plastic.

Hi, my name is Janice Brahney. I'm an associate professor in the department of watershed sciences at Utah state university. 

Wyatt Archer: My name is Wyatt Archer, and you are listening to this. Instead a podcast from the office of research at Utah state university.

This episode [00:01:00] is about dust, where it comes from what it's made of and the consequences for the places that settled. Dr. Janice Brahney talks about how Utah taught Colorado is dust. Situations are different. How Oscar is built up in lakes can change those ecosystems and to the experiment she uses to study.

We cover a lot of ground, but don't worry. I'll be popping in through voiceover to make sure you don't get lost because this story isn't just about dust. It's about a person, a person who didn't plan on going to college, becoming a scientist, or being interviewed by the New York times for finding microplastics in atmospheric dust.

So get ready to hear her story in the conversation I had with Dr. Janice Brahney. How did you end up becoming, 

Janice Brahney: um, well by accident, I guess I didn't graduate from high school in a path to college, so I did [00:02:00] graduate, but it wasn't a path to college. Um, so, and I wasn't thinking about. College for a long time, but I was a super nerd.

So I would read, discover magazine and cut out articles that I liked. And one of my friends was like, you should go to college. And I was like, no, I didn't like high school. Um, she was going to college and she said, Come with me. So I went with her and, um, decided to enroll, but I couldn't get into a science program.

So I enrolled in a non-science program and took geology. Um, and my teacher halfway through the semester said, you are clearly a scientist. You should switch programs. So I thought about it and I went back and did all my high school equivalencies to get into a science program. And then mostly I wanted to learn about all the sciences.

So I wanted [00:03:00] to take classes in biology and geology and geography and statistics and math. So I did, and I ended up getting an environmental science degree and just found that I really liked working at that intersection of the different disciplines I liked using what I understood about geology, to answer questions about biology and what's driving change in, in the, in the ecosystems based on.

The natural environment. And so I liked, I liked being at that intersection. And so I just tried to stay there. 

Wyatt Archer: Why did you start studying 


Janice Brahney: I did my PhD at the university of Colorado on dust. I had been looking for a project that really spoke to me. And, um, I was doing my hardest to stay in Canada, but it wasn't working out.

[00:04:00] And I started looking at universities in United States and reached out to. Jason Neff, who became my PhD advisor. And he called me about half an hour after I submitted my email to him inquiring about graduate school. And he said, I think you'd be perfect for this. Lab. And I have a project I'm really interested in how dust emissions have changed in the last couple of hundred years.

And would you be interested in, um, studying this and that unit? He had all this data. He had collected a sediment core from a lake and it showed that dust deposition had increased by 200 to 300 fold in the last couple of hundred years. And what the question I wanted to ask was what. Due to that lake by increasing the dust deposition.

So intently. And so that became my thesis [00:05:00] was to try to understand how dust deposition impacts lake ecosystems. 

Wyatt Archer: All right. So tell me what dust is then. 

Dust is a natural phenomenon, but human occupation of the landscape has really accelerated the rate at which soils erode through all kinds of things.

Land use things that we do so agriculture, um, desiccation of the landscape. So for example, the great salt lake because of water, appropriation has been shrinking, which leaves a lot of the Playa exposed for erosion, even recreation. So our ATVs and whatnot. So all of these different ways that we have appropriate the land tends to destabilize the soil, making it more available.

To be eroded by wind. So we've accelerated the rate at which dust is produced and then [00:06:00]transported. And I've been really interested in what happens to the areas that this dust is being transported to. Given that dust contains nutrients and metals and many other things. So what, what is the impact?

Janice Brahney: Because mountain ranges act as natural barriers to dust transport, and they also tend to have very simple and sensitive ecosystems. So how does this nutrient input or this input of material, and even the input of biology in turn influence these systems that are receiving this dust. 

Wyatt Archer: Yeah. Yeah. How has the dust situation in Colorado different than the dust situation here in Utah?

Um, it's different in that a lot of the dust in Colorado is coming from far away. Um, so dust has continued to increase through recent decades in most states except Colorado, because. A [00:07:00] lot of the dust is coming from the four corners area or further south in Colorado. And though dust is still being generated.

It's not necessarily getting transported as far. So in the last decade or so, dust has decreased a little bit in Colorado, but it's continued to increase in Utah and Arizona, um, Wyoming and a few other Western states. Where the dust is a lot more proximal. So in Utah, we get, we get dust from the great salt lake.

So right next to where people are living from, and as well as from other dry areas in Southern Utah, 

does he fall in love with dust in Colorado 

Janice Brahney: then? I did. Yeah. Um, I was initially very excited, but then when I started, I was really scared because I. I thought, what if I don't find anything? Like what if dust isn't important?

What if it doesn't matter at all the ecologically that dust has dust deposition has increased. [00:08:00]Um, so, and I had decided to take sediment cores as part of the study. Because at the very least I would have some climate story to fall back on because sediment Corazon was always show some change because of all, everything we've done on the landscape.

Wyatt Archer: So far, Janice has found biogeochemistry and she has fallen in love with dust. And sediment cores are one tool that you can use to study what dust has blown into a watershed. So what's the sediment core from a lake. And how do you get your hands on 

Janice Brahney: one? Um, basically we, we push a tube into the sediments. And pull it back out where the dirt starts in the lake, the lake floor.

Yeah. So where, yeah, where the dirt starts, if you will, sorry. 

Wyatt Archer: Dirt on the vest scientific word 

Janice Brahney: sediment is the more appropriate word. Um, so lakes are these amazing recorders of the environment throughout the year. [00:09:00] Bits of organisms that are growing in the lake die and sink to the bottom of the sediments stuff gets washed in from the catchment that settles down to the sediments or stuff blows in from the sky and settles down.

And so there's this incremental addition of sediment to the bottom of a lake and all of these sediments record. The history of that lake, or what's been happening in that lake, in this really amazing way. So not just with the, I mean, we have these fossils that are retained from the organisms that were living in the lake, so we can reconstruct who was there through time, but also.

Chemical signatures in the biological remains are in the minerals can tell us so many different things like it can tell us about climate patterns and how those have changed, where the rain water is coming from. It can tell us about [00:10:00] land use on the landscape. So if you were to do something like ed and a in the sediments, you could see what was cultivated through time.

You can reconstruct, um, human occupation on the landscape by looking at a Rojan patterns, you can use pollen to reconstruct the vegetation. It's just amazing how much information you can get from this dirt 

Wyatt Archer: help bigger. These sediment 

Janice Brahney: cores, I would say the size is usually about. Four or five inches. The length is going to depend on how much time you're interested in reconstructing.

So I'm often interested in the last couple hundred years because I want to know how humans have modified the lake system. But many people are interested in the last 10,000 years. And so if you wanted 10,000 years, you would need to take many, [00:11:00] many meters of course, in depth. And so I usually take about one meter or less of a sediment core.

Wyatt Archer: Okay. Really, really, really fat wrapping paper to 

Janice Brahney: yes. Fat wrapping paper. Um, so I was really glad that I had decided to take sediment cores as part of the state. Because at the very least I would have some climate story to fall back on. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was seeing really significant.

Impacts from dust, especially with phosphorus. I initially I did not think that it would be enough to make a difference, but all of my data suggested that it made a really big difference. Even if the dust storms weren't very big, but if they were small and persistent, they could accumulate to be a real.

Big deal in a system. 

Wyatt Archer: So increased levels [00:12:00] of dust have an impact on systems, especially in regards to the role of phosphorus. So what's up with phosphorus. 

Janice Brahney: Yeah. Okay. So phosphorous is a really important nutrient biologically it's something that. That life is always fighting for. So the primary producers in the water and on the land surface are always fighting for this phosphorous so that they can grow.

It's makes a part of our DNA. It makes a part of our cellular energy and. In organisms that have bones. It's also part of our bones and teeth. So it's a really important nutrient, but it's not available in large quantities in the environment. So the ultimate source is rocks. And as those rocks. Degrade through time that phosphorus can get released in used in ecosystems, but that's a very slow process that happens over [00:13:00] geological timescales.

So when humans come along and accelerate the process of. Phosphorus becoming available on the landscape through creating fertilizer from mining rock or mining guano and making it available for our own agricultural needs. And having that leach into water bodies that leads to. An explosion of life, because all of a sudden this very limited resource that's limiting the biological production is suddenly available.

And the, the organisms that can harness that those nutrients rapidly tend to be the ones that we don't necessarily want around 40 or 50 years ago. Maybe even a little bit more. We, the collective, we started to observe the T the deterioration. Lake water bodies, lots of algal blooms, which can lead to the [00:14:00] consumption of oxygen, which can kill fish and, uh, often cause toxic algal blooms.

And, um, I, I believe that this, I mean, I should know the story,

very famous limnology list, David Schindler. Um, Did it have an experiment in the experimental lakes area in Canada, where he added carbon nitrogen and phosphorus to one area of the lake and just carbon and nitrogen to the other area of the lake. And there's this beautiful picture showing that the, the part of the lake where he added phosphorus had a big algal bloom in it.

And that was sort of the definitive experiment that sh. That phosphorous pollution is leading to the degradation of these lakes and that a lot of it had to do with the detergents we were using. They had had high concentrations of phosphorus in them, [00:15:00] and he had been, I guess, fighting with these big detergent about what the actual F you know, offensive element was.

And they had. Been putting it out there that it could be carbon or nitrogen and not necessarily phosphorous. And so he was able to show what that experiment that phosphorus is, is the key player. Um, and that's true for many lake systems. Although there are many lake systems that are limited by another nutrient, not just phosphorous.

Wyatt Archer: How recent is this concern about phosphorous and mountain lakes? 

Janice Brahney: The mountain lake connection is very recent. So just in the last decade or so is when more and more reports of algal blooms have been observed. And when some publications came out, documenting this increase in remote water bodies, which is not necessarily.

Mountain water [00:16:00] bodies, but there have been more frequent observations of, of algal blooms and mountain water bodies. And we have evidence that this happens just based on observations, but we don't have a lot of experimental evidence that this is that dust can impact freshwater community. 

Wyatt Archer: Okay. So I just want to review this with you real quick.

So we are used to seeing Bosphorus impacts on bodies of water that are downstream from people doing stuff. And if you want to hear more about this, go back and listen to episode seven of instead with Nancy, Marilyn. In the past couple of decades, we started seeing algal blooms in remote water bodies, like mountain lakes that aren't downstream from people.

And there is correlational evidence that phosphorus late and dust is impacting these remote water bodies. We don't have a ton of experimental evidence and peer is what Janice is doing about that. 

Janice Brahney: So this past summer, we went out to three different lakes. So we [00:17:00] collected water and divvied it up into different containers.

And then. Dust in different concentrations and incubated those bottles in the lake for five days to see what would happen in those bottles through that time period. And then we collected them and filtered them and ran them for chlorophyll as an indicator of production, we looked at the community composition and any changes and.

Algae and the microbiota. And we also looked at how the nutrient concentration changed through that time. 

Wyatt Archer: Dust is complicated. It's more than phosphorous. There's loads of other minerals. There's biological components like pollen, spores, Ash, and broken up little pieces of organisms and Western countries are really good at tracking particles, less than 10 microns.

Because of the health impacts they can have. [00:18:00] But what about the stuff that's bigger than 10 microns? 

Janice Brahney: Well, one of the things that I noticed during my PhD is that we don't have a good idea of what dust is made out of. We do a really good job of monitoring particles that are less than 10 microns on size.

And so for reference, a red blood cell is about eight microns in size. So just a tiny bit bigger. Then a blood cell, many Western countries monitor that size fraction because it can get lodged in your lung tissue and cause pulmonary diseases. And if it's even smaller than that, it can get into your bloodstream.

Really only when people are doing these sort of random isolated studies, are people measuring or looking at. Bulk of what's in the atmosphere. And so really the first project I wanted to do when I started as a faculty member here was try to fill that knowledge gap to 

Wyatt Archer: fill that knowledge gap. Dr. Janice Brahney needed to figure out how to get samples from across the country, as well as a better way to collect those [00:19:00] samples, because the old way, it 

Janice Brahney: wasn't great for the last couple of decades.

Um, people have used. Marbles in a Bundt cake pan as a way to trap dust because the marbles prevent wind from coming back and re excavating the dust out of the sample. So the dust kind of step cells in between the marbles. Um, and this is a really low tech, low cap cost way to sample dust, but it's also not very.

Efficient, like it's difficult to remove all the dust from the marbles. That can be a huge pain, especially if you're a sampler tips over in the middle of nowhere. Um, but also you have to wash the sampler to get the dust out. And as soon as you get the dust wet, you start changing the chemistry. And so I really wanted to capture the sample dry so that I could understand.

How much phosphorus was in it and how bioavailable that phosphorus was. And [00:20:00] so, um, I developed a sampler, um, actually the prototype with my husband, we, you know, came up with the idea, having this conversation, just sort of describing. What I need. And I was like, God, I hate the marbles. I really just need like a series of screens that filters out any type of contamination.

Like, and my husband did a physics degree and he was like, well, that would probably work as a wind baffle. Let's go test this. And so we went to home Depot and we got some buckets and screens and, um, we tested. Bye. I put dust in the bottom of the sampler and added different levels of screens, different number of screens, and then would hang out the side of the car while he drove 30 miles an hour down, some lone strip.

And then I would check to see whether or not the dust was disturbed at all. And so we did this initial experiments with the pilot, and then I went and found an engineer to actually build these for me. And then we. Um, [00:21:00] more controlled tests. Um, but that's basically what we're using. So it's just a series of screens on a glass plate.

And then I use a ceramic razorblade, um, which is a cue I for movies and how to collect 

Wyatt Archer: the dust developed this sampler. How did you deploy it? Where did you send it? W 

Janice Brahney: we deploy each of the samplers to mostly remote locations. So they're typically wilderness or national park areas. And that's because we're interested in what the background deposition is.

Not a deposition from a point source like a city. So we've tried to keep them all fairly remote. So there are anywhere from 50 to 300 kilometers from. And so I started collaborating with the national atmospheric deposition program. They measure. Rain chemistry, rain deposition around the country every single week at more than 300 stations.

And so I collaborated with them to [00:22:00] develop a way to sample the dry particulate material using their network so that I could do it over a large area. And at a high frequency, 

Wyatt Archer: sterilized samplers are sent to technicians across the west who deployed the samplers for a month and then ship them back to jail.

She opens up the sampler. She pulls out the glass collection plate, which kind of looks like a dirty mirror. And then we. 

Janice Brahney: Remove the desks using a razor blade, we weigh the desks so that we know, um, how much mass was recovered in the area that we were sampling so that we can extrapolate that to a deposition rate per meter square.

But we've also been looking. The nutrient and elemental concentration. So one of my graduate students has been looking at how bioavailable the phosphorus is in the dust and how that changes in space and time. And we're also looking at different isotopes to see if we can [00:23:00] understand what the major sources are and how that changes in space and time.

And. Then, because I was really interested in what this dust is composed of. I started looking at it under the microscope and that's when I saw plastic. And at first I thought I contaminated my sample. Um, and you know, I was really distraught and worried about that, but then I noticed so many different types of particles and colors and realize that no, there's just lots of plastic industry.

So, yeah, the plastic was really shocking. They're really brightly colored. So it it's seems strange to see that in a sample, but also. There's a lot of diversity in the shapes and colors indicating a lot of different sources of plastic in the atmosphere. And they're all really tiny. So they're much smaller than what your eye could see.

You wouldn't be able to see [00:24:00] this on your hand or anything like that. You can only see it through the microscope. 

Wyatt Archer: Where is it coming from? 

Janice Brahney: Yeah. So we, we did a follow-up study to try to understand how plastic is getting into the atmosphere to begin with, which is all based on models that are going to be wrong, but they give us a first approximation of what the major sources might be.

And we did this by looking at the deposition rates we had in space and time. So we had fairly high resolution deposition over a 14 month period. And we paired that with an atmospheric model to determine what the likely sources were at our deposition sites. And it turns out that roads are the biggest source or we think is the biggest source of plastic to the atmosphere because.

Roads, [00:25:00] provide cars, driving on roads, provide that mechanical energy to move particles high into the atmosphere. Like few, imagine a car driving down a dirt road. You see this big plume coming up behind it. So if that was on a paved road in the city, that would be plastics coming up behind it. 

Wyatt Archer: You discover these microplastics in these samplers, then what did you do?

Janice Brahney: Yeah. As soon as. Recognized what was happening. I realized that I was. Sitting on very important information that nobody knew and that, um, I would get likely really important paper out of it. 

Wyatt Archer: And how does that feel to be like, oh, I'm the person in the world who has this information? And I have to do something about it.

Is that exciting or is it terrifying? 

Janice Brahney: Yeah, so it was a little bit of, of, of both terrifying and really exciting is also as junior faculty. I didn't have a ton of time and I didn't have students. Our money to work [00:26:00] on this. So I did it myself on the evenings and weekends. I just dedicated like a year and a half of my life to counting plastics and learning about plastic and figuring out how to count plastic and recounting plastic, realizing I had done it wrong.

And, um, then trying to do something with that information. Um, so I didn't want to just be like, Hey, there's this new source of pollution, here's plastic in a new place. I wanted to try to understand why it was there and how it was getting there. 

Wyatt Archer: So you discover plastics and you could have just been like, Hey, there's plastic and our dust.

Yeah. But you didn't. Why 

Janice Brahney: not? Um, it's actually, because when I was a graduate student, I submitted a paper to science and. Um, it was just about dust increasing, um, was the first piece of evidence we had that dust was actually increasing in the Western United States, more than just [00:27:00] anecdotal evidence of people saying, I think it's dustier.

We have, I developed actual indicators and evidence of it and, um, Th it got rejected and the editor was like, this is really interesting. And I think it's really important, but in order to make it a paper worthy of our journal, you need to S to start understanding why. And so I thought that was a great piece of advice.

And so for, I applied that advice to this paper as well. I didn't want to just say plastic is falling out of the sky. I want it to say why. Um, and so the w the w. Really happy with myself that the way I had set up the study to begin with in such a large spacial area at such a high resolution would allow me to use things like atmospheric models to try to understand where the plastic was coming from and how it was moving through the atmosphere.

And so I was able to show that what falls out with rain is [00:28:00] typically soar. More locally. And it's often coming from cities or agriculture, whereas stuff that's just falling out of the sky under a beautiful sunny day. Like today is coming from much higher in the atmosphere and much further away. And I think that was really the key to getting it published in science.

Wyatt Archer: I just know that that no help for this. And you had to do it on your own. Did you try to get help? And like, why did you have to do it in your spare 

Janice Brahney: time? Oh, I already knew that I wasn't going to be able to get help. I wouldn't, what is, isn't going to be able to get us? Um, our specific department doesn't have funds for TA ships.

So all of our students are only supported on grants. So we have to work really hard to get somebody, to give us enough money, to support a student and a project. Um, we can't just take a student cause I have a great idea, but it's interesting. Like some of my colleagues were like, you should ask for a teaching release because.

This is [00:29:00] clearly really important information. And if you could focus more of your time on it, you can get it done quicker. And it did turn out that somebody else published on it on a topic on this topic before I did, um, over in Europe. And that was a bit of a blow because it did feel like man, I've been working on this for a year and a half.

And if I could have had more time, I could have done it 

Wyatt Archer: quicker. Yeah. Um, how did. The paper in Europe coming out. Did that affect yours? Cause it's. 

Janice Brahney: Yeah, well, it, I mean, it probably disaffected me really emotionally. I mean, the, the group that did it, I think they're amazing. I respect them a lot. Um, I think the paper they did is really great, but yeah, I w I thought that maybe it would impact my chances of getting a high impact publication.

Wyatt Archer: But Janice had multiple months of sampler data from 13 sites across the west for resolution of this data was high enough that it was used in computer models that indicate the energy required to send microplastics into the atmosphere is coming from cars, driving over roads.

So her larger set of data allowed her to answer more questions. And she had to answer a lot of questions. 

Wyatt Archer: So after that papers published, then what happened to you? 

Janice Brahney: Um, then I was so inundated with reporters wanting to talk to me that it was truly overwhelming.

Wyatt Archer: Like give me a list of where they were from. 

Janice Brahney: Um, [00:31:00] the Washington post New York times. Um, Wired Bloomberg Newsweek. I don't know all over the world, Australia, Europe, London. It was nonstop. And I, I was still trying to do my job, managed my students, my classes, and things like that, that I would, you know, get an email.

And someone would say, can I interview you? And I'd be like, yes. And I'd put it in my calendar. And I put a note about who it was and why. One time. I didn't realize that it was a live TV interview. I thought it was going to be like a zoom interview. And I, you know, I was just wearing like a, t-shirt just came as like such a surprise that I, but I was just so over WellMed with the amount of people that wanted to talk to me that I couldn't even pay attention to who wanted to talk to me.[00:32:00]

Wyatt Archer: How did that feel? Like, what was that like? Were you expecting that? 

Janice Brahney: I wasn't expecting that. Um, one of my colleagues had said something like, oh, when this paper comes out, your life is going to change. And I didn't really know what that meant. And I didn't think it would in the way that it did. And initially I was, I, like I said, I was super horrified because I'm an introvert introvert, and I just.

Didn't want to be that public. My, um, niece is a, uh, producer in LA. So I called her up and I was like, give me some tips, help me out. We did some mock interviews. She helped me figure out what my talking points were so that I would, could anticipate the kind of questions I might get asked and feel more comfortable about how I was going to answer them.

Wyatt Archer: Yeah. How did you choose who to say yes or no to, 

Janice Brahney: um, I, [00:33:00] I try to say yes to everybody, but I definitely couldn't because the emails just flew by. And so I guess it was whoever was higher up in my inbox. And if, if I recognize the news source, 

Wyatt Archer: how long did that last for that? 

Janice Brahney: It's still happening, but it's not, not to the same extent.

I'd say for the first six months, it was pretty intense. Um, I still get pretty frequent emails about people who want interviews 

Wyatt Archer: when she was in high school. She didn't plan on going to college. And when she was researching dust, she didn't plan on discovering plastics. But now that she's in plastic land, how does Janice feel about it?

So do you like. The idea of being trapped in plastic land? Well, 

Janice Brahney: yeah, I mean, so I'm an introvert and initially all the attention I got and all the questions that people wanted to [00:34:00] ask was a little bit of a nightmare, you know? Um, but then I got used to it and then I started to see the value in communicating about it and.

I think one of the things about plastic pollution is that it's very tangible and it does seem to motivate the public in general to want to do something about it. And so I feel like it's given me a more. Power to make change, which is the whole reason I got into this field to begin with is that I want things to be better.

I want the land to be managed better. I want people to be healthier and live in better harmony with the environment. And so. I feel like plastics is maybe the most effective way that I can do that. Especially now that people, I have been asked to testify to the legislature, not our [00:35:00] legislature, the California legislature, but I, it does seem like my work will have impacts on policy and public perception.

And. The desire for people to make change or support change politically. And so for me, that is something, yeah. Exciting and something that I want to continue to contribute to, 

Wyatt Archer: um, for the questions changed. Like if the areas that people are interested in, 

Janice Brahney: not really, um, the question changed a little bit when we published the second paper on more definitively defining where the plastics are coming from, like roads.

Um, but it's typically. What are the offenders and how do we fix this? And I can never answer that second question. How do we fix this? I mean, how we fix this is requires multiple levels of organization and, um, commitment from the population and [00:36:00] politicians. 

Wyatt Archer: So yeah, if you had a magic wand to like, get people to do what they needed to do to fix this.

What would you be waving that 

Janice Brahney: Wanda at some of the politicians, there's a, um, the break free from plastic pollution act that would do a lot to. Reduce the amount of plastics that end up in the environment. It would really significantly limit the amount of single use plastics that are produced and used, which right now makes up about 40% of annual production.

And these are plastics that are going to be around for hundreds of years that we might literally use for three minutes. And so that doesn't really make any sense at all. But, um, it's the oil and gas companies that are using their byproduct to make these types of plastics. And they have a lot of political power and they have been working really hard to create new plastic, new markets for this type of plastic.[00:37:00]

Um, so, you know, reducing politically reducing the amount of single use plastics that are used as well as. Curtailing this practice of shipping plastic waste to other countries is really problematic. I think if we were forced to keep all of our plastic waste in the United States, we would end up with a problem real fast that we would need to solve, um, by using less, as opposed to just shipping the problem elsewhere, which.

Eventually just flies back in our face, literally. 

Wyatt Archer: And then how do you stop worrying about this? Cause like there's no easy solution insight. You don't like, how do you deal with that as somebody who's just like trying to figure out what's happened? 

Janice Brahney: Yeah. I think that's why I became a researcher. I, you know, In my undergrad, when I was taking classes about the [00:38:00] environment and everything that we're doing to it, I cried a lot because it was really upsetting and horrifying.

And I think the way I channeled that. Sadness. And that emotion was into research because what can I do other than provide information? And I don't have a lot of power as an individual. Um, but what I can do, what I can contribute is knowledge. 

Wyatt Archer: Thank you for listening to this episode of instead, I hope you enjoyed listening to Dr.

Janice Brahney story, and I hope that you'll share it and help her knowledge reach new audiences. So send this episode to. Make sure you're subscribed to the instead podcast and you can find us on Instagram at instead podcast. This episode was edited and produced by me. Why at Archer is part of my work in the office of research at Utah state university.[00:39:00] .