New Filtering Instrument Adds Ease and Reliability to Microplastic Research

Ocean Diagnostics creates the first commercially available microplastics filtering instrument that is easy to deploy in even the most remote locations. Graduate Research Assistant from the University of British Columbia and Ocean Diagnostics team member, Karly McMullen, experienced first-hand the need for a product like Ascension while sampling for microplastics in the Galapagos Marine Reserve this past year.

Ocean Diagnostics’ technology was inspired after failing to routinely mitigate the difficulties of microplastics sampling at sea, especially at depth. Ascension is a portable and compact device that streamlines sampling for microplastics in the water column, down to 400 m depths, while avoiding the contamination challenges often afflicting traditional microplastics sampling protocols.

Karly McMullen shared her experience sampling microplastics in the Galapagos Islands and was not shy to explain how difficult sampling for microplastics in a remote location can be.

“I’ve realized you can plan as much as possible for fieldwork, but obstacles will always come up. We completely rolled with the punches. So having devices like Ascension that minimizes the number of things you need to organise and coordinate is wonderful,” Karly explains.

“ can plan as much as possible for fieldwork, but obstacles will always come up... having devices like Ascension that minimizes the number of things you need to organise and coordinate is wonderful." - Karly McMullen

Ascension reduces microplastic water sampling steps from many to one easy step. Most importantly, it removes the need to transport large, bulk water samples from the field back to filter in the laboratory.

In traditional microplastics sampling, water must be collected in pre-cleaned reservoirs, transported all the way back and filtered in the lab, all while avoiding the constant threat of contamination from air, clothing, sampling materials and more.

Karly’s fieldwork began before Ascension hit the market. She experienced traditional sampling in the Galapagos, where she explains transporting the water was quite a feat.

“Water is heavy! Each day we would collect 10-15L of water and we would guard it in the boat while the captain navigated home through rough seas. After a long day on the water, we would spend upwards of five hours filtering in the lab. Holding up multiple litres of water for hours to filter became quite tough, and we were always battling the threat of contaminating our samples with fibres from our clothes. Ascension is invaluable in that way as it removes 75% of these steps from the protocol,” Karly recalls.

Ascension also offers the opportunity to sample at depth.

Sampling microplastics throughout the water column is important. Most samples are traditionally taken from the surface, so it is difficult to know where microplastics are ending up. How many microplastics are at different depths will help us understand the fate of microplastics in the ocean and in turn, what ecosystems they may impact most.

The best part about this sampling equipment is that it is light, easily deployed even from small boats, and decreases processing time tenfold!

When traveling to remote locations for fieldwork, compact and light instruments are key.

Ascension is available for purchase now. Start collecting microplastics in the water column with increased efficiency and additional quality control today.


Ocean Diagnostics Inc. (ODI) is a Victoria, B.C.-based environmental impact company that diagnoses and protects our planet from the threats of plastic pollution and biodiversity loss. Through innovative technology, cutting-edge laboratory capabilities and collaborative partnerships, ODI enables scientists and the public to collect the data needed to influence local and global solutions.