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Microplastic characteristics, fluxes and accumulation in the Atlantic Ocean

Project Description

Project Rationale:
Plastic contamination of the oceans is of considerable concern and may cause significant damage to ecosystem structure and function. Although the larger items (macroplastics) have generated the greatest public concern, it is possible that smaller particles (microplastics, 10-1000 µm) will pose a greater environmental hazard as particles become more available for ingestion, with an increase in surface area facilitating chemical and biological interactions. However, our current understanding of the processes which influence the distribution and accumulation of microplastics in the oceans is at a very primitive level, hindering our ability to predict issues arising from microplastic contamination.
The focus of this project will be to acquire data on the vertical distribution, characteristics, fluxes and accumulation of microplastics within the water column and sediment at three key time-series sites (Porcupine Abyssal Plain, Northern Oligotrophic Gyre, Southern Oligotrophic Gyre) in the Atlantic, to develop an enhanced understanding and predictive capability. Existing samples from many years of sediment trapping at these sites, as well as sediment cores, will be a prime source for analysis but the expectation is that additional samples will be taken at sea to address particular processes. Large basin-scale models (NEMO-MEDUSA) will enable predictions of current and future particle flux.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click View Website for more information on eligibilty and how to apply


[1] Jambeck, J.R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T.R., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., Narayan, R. and Law, K.L., 2015. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347(6223), pp.768-771.

[2] Horton A.A., Walton A; Spurgeon D J.; Lahive E; Svendsen C; 2017, Microplastics in freshwater and terrestrial environments: evaluating the current understanding to identify the knowledge gaps and future research priorities. Science of The Total Environment 586, 127-141

[3] Kane, I.A. and Clare, M.A., 2019. Dispersion, accumulation, and the ultimate fate of microplastics in deep-marine environments: a review and future directions. Frontiers in Earth Science, 7.

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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