Photos by Joe Klementovich | Story by Emily Stifler Wolfe 

ASC volunteer Joe Klementovich woke at 4:30 a.m., and quietly snuck out of the house where his family was vacationing in Camden, Maine, pulling out of the driveway without waking anyone. He followed Route 1 along the coast, and then turned south toward Deer Isle. After an hour on winding dirt roads, he pulled into Stonington, a tiny lobstering town with a small flood of summer tourism. 

In a gray, shingled building overlooking the harbor, he found the ASC Microplastics lab, where Abby Barrows and Margie Pfeffer were hard at work processing samples from the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers.

ASC Microplastics researcher Abby Barrows

Abby Barrows, lead ASC microplastics researcher, counts a microplastics sample in her coastal Maine lab.

ASC Microplastics Lab

Clean petri dishes prepped to receive filters.

“Talk about a place to really dig into ocean science,” said Klementovich, also a professional photographer. “We went out the back door of the lab, and there’s the ocean. It’s where the rubber hits the road, so to speak.” 
After walking Klementovich through the filtration process, Barrows pulled out the petri dish holding the filtered sample he’d taken this past winter in Florida and showed it to him under the microscope.  

“I can recall [taking] that sample, boxing it up in a UPS Store in Key Largo in March,” he recalls, “and in late July, here I am looking at the samples of plastic.” 

Abby Barrows analyzing a sample in the ASC Microplastics Lab

Barrows analyzing a sample.

ASC Microplastics Researcher Margie Pfeffer

ASC Microplastics Analysis Assistant Margie Pfeffer holds a sample gathered by an ASC sailing adventurer with the Atlantic Rally for Sailors.

Klementovich became interested in the project because of his passion for fly fishing. 

“The idea that as a single person, you can actually do something,” he said. “It’s near and dear, and I can make a direct impact without going to the White House… We can do it on our adventures, on family vacations, or after work. Every single sample adds to the data, and the understanding of how we’re impacting our streams, lakes, rivers, and oceans.”

ASC Microplastics sample under a microscope

Looking through the microscope at a sample with hundreds of plastics, gathered near the Cape Verde Islands.

Joe Klementovich is a photographer based in North Conway, New Hampshire. Check out more of his work at

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