Environmental Health and Safety Major
Physical and Biological Sciences Category
Tim is a senior majoring in Environmental Health and Safety and will be graduating in December 2021.
Aquatic microplastics are an environmental issue of growing concern. Research on microplastics is heavily focused on the marine environment, and the research that is conducted in freshwater systems is mostly focused on large rivers or lakes. This research was conducted in the Spring River Watershed, which is a small river system in southwest Missouri. Attention was focused on the relationship between microplastic concentration and catchment size and the difference in microplastic concentrations between rural and urban areas. Microplastics were collected using a phytoplankton net. Samples were processed using a series of steps that involved sieving, evaporation, organic matter digestion, and filtration. Microplastics were counted using a dissecting microscope. Microplastics were found in all streams sampled, with fibers being the most common type of microplastic, though some fragments and films were also found. No significant relationship was found between catchment size and microplastic concentrations. No significant difference in microplastic concentrations was found between rural and urban areas. Results from this study do show that microplastic pollution exists even in small, rural streams.