About this project
In the last half century macro- & micro-plastics are invaded remote environments, evidenced by rapid increases in sea surface and shore surveys.
Close to urban centres and in semi-enclosed seas it is clear that plastic has made multiple and considerable impacts into the foodweb particularly at higher trophic levels. In more remote localities, such as the polar regions, initial reports suggested negative interactions with higher predators, but this is likely to be spreading through trophic levels and ecological guilds.
This PhD would investigate polar samples from the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (2016-17), ICEBERGS (2017-19), ChAOS (2017-19) and Atlantic samples from JR17004 ODA (2018-19). Faunal samples would be investigated for entanglement and stomach contents, and suspected microplastics verified using FTIR microscopy techniques. Results would be investigated along environment (surface vs water column vs seabed), habitat (e.g. soft vs hard substrata), trophic, guild, taxonomic and age lines to assess contrasts in ubiquity, density and impact of potential plastic invasion.
As such, that we are aware of, this would break ground as a plastic study by using such a holistic matrix investigation of presence and impact across ecological characters of environment and organism. These results would be compared with background plastic levels in the abiotic environment. Literature work would be undertaken to evaluate what the main source types and geography of plastics are and whether there are viable, scaleable solutions emerging (to reduction and removal).