The Microbial Ecology Laboratory will grant one scholarship of $2,000 to support a Honours student undertaking a project on Microplastic research starting in 2023.
Plastic has long been a substantial pollutant in our oceans. In 2014, 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic were estimated to be afloat across the world’s oceans (Eriksen et al., 2014). One major subclass of ocean plastics are microplastics (Andrady, 2011). Ranging from 1 μm to 5 mm in size, microplastics can be derived from the break-up of larger plastic debris, resulting from physical and chemical stress to the plastic (Gillibert et al., 2019). They can also be produced for commercial uses, such as in cosmetic products, clothes, and paints (Fendall and Sewell, 2009, De Falco et al., 2019, Hale et al., 2020). Microplastics are produced using various toxic chemicals and can absorb harmful toxins within marine environments (Lusher et al., 2017). As a result, they can be harmful to marine ecosystems when introduced to food webs (Setälä et al., 2014).
In recent years, there has been an increased effort to predict the transport pathways and distribution of microplastics within the ocean, with many studies investigating plastic transport within coastal and open ocean waters (Kalaroni et al., 2019, Atwood et al., 2019, Eriksen et al., 2014). Studies have shown that microplastics enter the oceans through several pathways, including discharge from wastewater treatment plants and atmospheric transport (Naji et al., 2021, Liu et al., 2019). One notable pathway is through discharge from freshwater streams as they collect stormwater runoff from catchment areas which can include residential and industrial areas with high human population. Identifying which freshwater streams are discharging microplastics into marine environments allows to target areas where water treatment and management methods need to be improved.
Our previous work at Flinders University has shown that freshwater streams in Adelaide (South Australia) are contributing to the transport of microplastics into the marine environment and may provide a basis for future plastic waste management policy and strategies in the area. Under this project, we propose to:
1. Assess the distribution of microplastics at potential hot-spot sites across the Gulf St Vincent by undertaking water sampling and analysis of samples.
2. Identify the polymer type of some microplastic using Raman spectroscopy.
The project will include field work on various research vessels as well as laboratory work, including microscopy.
Flinders University is a public university in Adelaide, South Australia. Founded in 1966, it was named in honour of navigator Matthew Flinders, who explored and surveyed the South Australian coastline in the early 19th century. Flinders is a verdant university and a member of the Innovative Research Universities (IRU) Group and ranks in the 10-16 bracket in Australia and 36th in the world of those established less than 50 years. Academically, the university pioneered a cross-disciplinary approach to education, and its faculties of medicine and the humanities are ranked amon... read more
The value of the scholarship is $2,000 and it will be paid in two equal instalments.
(i) have completed an undergraduate degree in Biology, Environmental Sciences or Chemistry (or being about to complete their degree) and
(ii) enrol in a Honours Degree (on this microplastic project) starting in 2023 at Flinders University.
Selection will be undertaken by the project lead.
ompletion of a undergraduate degree in Biology, Environmental Sciences or Chemistry (or working towards completion). Applicants need to submit their applications by emailing the project lead Sophie Leterme with the following attachment:
For more details visit: Flinders University website.