PML student receives £1000 to further microplastic research

PML student receives £1000 to further microplastic research

Copepod image courtesy of Dr Matthew Cole, University of Exeter and PML

 

This month PML’s Alice Wilson McNeal was announced as the overall winner of the P1 Marine Foundation National Student Awards 2015. 

Alice was presented with the prestigious award at an event where she showcased the project ‘Plankton eating plastic: worth worrying about?’ to representatives from the P1 Marine Foundation, Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST), Marine Conservation Society (MCS), environmentalists and university professors from around the UK.

Alice’s ground-breaking research project focuses on ‘microplastics’, plastic pieces smaller than 5mm which are present in large quantities in our ocean today. They can be directly produced for industry or cosmetics (like the microbeads in things like toothpaste and exfoliants) or broken down from larger objects.

Zooplankton, the tiny animals at the base of the marine food web, are at risk of ingesting these plastic fragments because of their size, and been shown to do so under laboratory conditions, causing harm to a range of taxa. Until now, however, scientists were unsure of whether this was also occurring in their natural environment.

Through the project it has been discovered that crustaceans called copepods, one of the most abundant zooplankton groups, and decapod larvae are both ingesting plastic in the ocean. As zooplankton have such an important place in all marine ecosystems, it is vital for scientists to fully understand what kind of impact plastic ingestion is having on their populations.

The Awards were launched by P1 Marine Foundation in 2012 to reward students in higher education who produce outstanding work that will help to protect and conserve the marine environment. The ceremony gave students the opportunity to showcase their projects to an audience of academics, business leaders and non-governmental organizations.

You may be interested in...

News

Moving forward with microplastics research

Microplastics have been recorded in a range of zooplankton species, and they are already causing problems for these tiny - but vitally important - animals, even before the plastic particles make their way through the food web. A new review suggests that, to further our unde...

News

PML Chief Executive receives prestigious Oceanography Award

Professor Stephen de Mora, Plymouth Marine Laboratory’s Chief Executive, was honoured at last night’s Society for Underwater Technology AGM for his tireless advocacy for the ocean, raising awareness of the importance of protecting the ocean environment, and along the way insp...

News

Sizing up the microscopic

Researchers from PML and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) embark this week on the collaborative annual research cruise Atlantic Meridional Transect (AMT) programme, where, amongst other projects, they aim to further understand how tiny pieces of plastic litter are affec...