A growing problem of plastics pollution that has been making headlines is the focus of Bloomsburg University students Michael Facella and Sierra Smith’s summer research project. For their URSCA (Undergraduate Research, Scholarly, and Creative Activity) project the pair is investigating microplastics, which are microscopic plastic particles that have been polluting waterways, and ending up in different species of shellfish.
“The subject of our URSCA project is about microplastics in the stomach and gills of different species and determining if a location will change the amount of microplastics found inside them,” says Facella. “We are looking at common grass shrimp, Allegheny crayfish, rusty crayfish, Asiatic clam, and sea cucumbers.We will compare the amounts of microplastics between the species to measure if there is a difference in the amount of microplastics by location.”
Both Facella and Smith are environmental biology majors and have a strong sense of environmentalism that gives inspiration to their research.
“My inspiration for this subject to be researched is my love for the environment,” says Facella. “I have substitutes for many plastic products because I know plastic in America does not get disposed of properly, and most of the plastics we use, will end up in the oceans and rivers. I figured that must have an environmental impact, and I was curious to do this research to figure out this answer.”
“The huge trash pile in the ocean is a concern because of the possible biomagnification of microplastics to every organism that is consuming it. This includes humans because there are microplastics in our water systems and the seafood that we consume. This raises concern for potential health issues,” adds Facella.
The duo plan to visit different locations to collect research specimens that they will be able to take back to a lab to dissect and study the levels of microplastics in them. The sites that they will use to collect samples are ones around Bloomsburg and Chincoteague Bay, Delmarva Peninsula.
“The impact our research can have will change how we regulate our trash in the United States,” says Facella. “Stricter plastics regulations will have to be implemented because of the negative consequences microplastics can have on the animal body because plastics affect hormone regulations. Plastic doesn’t break down, it only gets smaller. That means that every plastic item ever made, is somewhere on Earth.”
“There is not much research done on microplastics, so I am hoping once other scientists see our data, that it will spark more scientists to explore microplastics to bring more awareness on the topic,” says Facella.