Northeastern University professor Mark Patterson is at Comic-Con International to talk about his experience as a real-life Aquaman, living underwater in the Aquarius lab in Florida and as part of Fabien Cousteau’s Mission 31 project. He really got into the spirit of things in San Diego yesterday as he attended the con in cosplay—as a coral polyp.
Patterson’s job sounds like something out of a comic: He designs free-swimming robots that survey and sample the ocean floor and the water column. Because his research includes staying underwater for stretches of time, he was invited to participate in today’s Aquaman panel, which will feature divers and underwater researchers talking about life beneath the waves.
But Patterson took things a step further on Thursday, going to the con in a costume designed to illustrate research done in his lab—and alert con-goers to the real-life danger that microplastics pose to underwater life. Microplastics, small particles of plastic (under 5 mm), are a form of pollution that is becoming increasingly common in the world’s oceans, and when marine organisms ingest them they can cause serious disruption to the ecosystem. Patterson’s costume, fashioned from a salmon-colored men’s jersey with a ring of tentacles around the neck, featured a cutaway view of a coral polyp’s digestive system. He also brought a scale model of a real-life robot, the Manta Ray, developed by a student in his lab to measure microplastics in the water. “I’m hoping a lot of people stop me and say, ‘What the heck is this all about?’” he said.
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