Discovery of Microplastics in Marine Animals

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Cassidy McNeely

Department of Chemistry

College of Arts & Sciences

Time: 4:20 PM


Microplastics have been found in various living and non-living samples worldwide. Previously, the small plastics were discarded as a threat, but now the evidence is clear, microplastics are dangerous1. Being such a new topic, there is a lack of research on successful isolation and analysis of these plastics. In this project, stomach and intestinal contents from sea turtle and dolphin were investigated to determine if microplastics existed within. Nile Red was used to fluoresce the microplastics and allow for the shape and number of microplastics to be accounted for in each sample. Every sample had microplastics in them, leading to over 434 microplastics total. The sea turtle intestines had a large microplastic that is believed to be polyethylene, and a microplastic that is believed to be polyvinyl alcohol. Due to the small nature of the other microplastics found, the characteristics could not be found. An FT-IR and a density separation tube were used to determine what type of plastic the two larger pieces were. It is now understood that new methods need to be devised to characterize smaller microplastics.

(1) Schymanski, D.; Goldbeck, C.; Humpf, H. U.; Fürst, P. Analysis of Microplastics in Water by
Micro-Raman Spectroscopy: Release of Plastic Particles from Different Packaging into Mineral
Water. Water Res. 2018, 129, 154–162.

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