There is now so much plastic on our planet that microscopic plastic particles (‘microplastics’) are the most abundant form of solid waste on Earth. Global plastic production is ever increasing, having grown from 1.5 (in 1950) to 322 million tonnes in 2015 and, each year, at least 10% of this plastic ends up as litter in aquatic environments. The majority of the plastic found in the world’s oceans originates from land, transported to marine systems along river networks. Despite the fact that many freshwater environments, including rivers, lakes and canals, are heavily contaminated by plastic waste, research on plastic pollution in freshwaters is still in its infancy. Freshwater habitats such as wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes provide vital benefits and services such as drinking water, water for food production and habitats for aquatic life and birds. Understanding and reducing the risk that microplastics pose to freshwater ecosystems is, therefore, an urgent research priority.
This PhD project will:
1. Quantify the distribution, abundance and type of microplastics in urban and rural freshwater habitats. Via collaborations with the Department of Biomedical and Forensic Sciences a Fourier Transform Infrared Microscope will be used to determine polymer types of the microplastics
2. Assess the potential impacts of microplastics on biodiversity, foodweb structure and ecosystem functioning in freshwater habitats The results of this project will generate essential novel data on the presence and effects of microplastic litter in freshwater habitats.
Recommendations on monitoring/mitigation will be established to provide managers with important information for policy-making decisions.
This project is self-funded. Details of studentships for which funding is available are selected by a competitive process and are advertised on our jobs website (View Website) as they become available.