The Debris Diet: How Microplastics are Infiltrating the Marine Food Chain with Izzy Gaw
One of the most pervasive anthropogenic stressors facing marine life today is plastic debris. In 2010, an estimated 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic waste entered the ocean, and these input estimates are slated to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025. One of the most challenging aspects of marine debris management is that over time plastics break down into microplastics (<5 mm in size) for which the total degradation time is unknown. Not only are these ubiquitous microplastics contaminating marine fauna and their habitats, but they also have the potential to absorb pollutants thus posing a threat to ocean food webs. After fauna ingest these pollutant-absorbent microplastics, the toxins can bioaccumulate and biomagnify, which can negatively affect fish behavior and physiology. While the effects of pollutant-absorbent microplastics are relatively well studied, the baseline physiological effects of uncontaminated plastics are not well understood. This talk will explore how fauna ingest these microplastics and what happens to the microplastics inside their bodies.