Featured projects (2)
Featured research (22)
An international group of experts says the production of new plastics should be capped to solve the plastic pollution problem. The authors argue that all other measures won’t suffice to keep up with the pace of plastic production and releases. This letter was published in the journal Science.
While microplastics are a pollutant of growing concern in various environmental compartments, less is known regarding the sources and delivery pathways of microplastics in urban rivers. We investigated the relationship between microplastic concentrations and various spatiotemporal factors (e.g., land use, arterial road length, water velocity, precipitation) in two watersheds along an urban-rural gradient in the Portland metropolitan area. Samples were collected in August, September, and February and were analyzed for total microplastic count and type. Nonparametric statistics were used to evaluate potential relationships with the explanatory variables, derived at both the subwatershed and near stream scales. In August, microplastic concentrations were significantly higher than in February. August concentrations also negatively correlated with flow rate, suggesting that lower flow rates may have facilitated the accumulation of microplastics. Smaller size microplastic particles (< 100 μm) were found more in August than September and February, while larger size particles were more dominant in February than the other months. Microplastic concentrations were positively related to 24-h antecedent precipitation in February. Negative correlations existed between wet season microplastic concentrations and agricultural lands at the near stream level. The results indicate that near stream variables may more strongly influence the presence and abundance of microplastics in Portland's waterways than subwatershed-scale variables. Fragments were the most commonly observed microplastic morphology, with a dominance of gray particles and the polymer polyethylene. The findings of this study can inform management decisions regarding microplastic waste and identify hotspots of microplastic pollution that may benefit from remediation.
Ingestion of microplastics has been documented across marine species, but exposure remains sparsely described in many seabird species. We assess microplastic (between 0.2 and 5.0 mm) ingestion in two Northwestern Atantic - breeding species for which exposure to microplastics is entirely or largely undescribed: Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) and Roseate Terns (S. dougallii). Common Tern microplastic load did not vary between life stages (p = 0.590); microplastic load did differ in Common Tern adults breeding at two of three colonies explored (p = 0.002), with no other regional differences observed. Roseate Terns ingested significantly more microplastics than Common Terns (p = 0.007). Our results show that microplastic ingestion by terns varies regionally and interspecifically, but not by life stage, trends potentially explained by dietary differences. We provide the first quantification of microplastic fiber ingestion by terns in the Northwestern Atlantic and identify trophic dynamics related to microplastic ingestion, representing an important step toward understanding the risk of the pollutant to terns across regions, as well as toward the use of terns as potential bioindicators of microplastics.
Each year, over 2,000 new chemicals are added to the tens of thousands that already flood the global market. Of these, an estimated 1% have been assessed adequately for safety, and many more are suspected to be toxic. Individual regulatory agencies lack the resources and political power to tackle this enormous challenge, signaling the need for a targeted global approach to handling chemical pollution.
- Fisheries Wildlife and Conservation Sciences
About Susanne Brander
- Associate Professor at Oregon State University. Research encompasses the fields of toxicology, endocrinology, and ecology; integrating molecular approaches with measurements at the organism and population level. Current work examines the influence of factors such as temperature and salinity on responses to contaminants of emerging concern, and study of the ingestion, trophic transfer, and potential effects of microplastics and nanoplastics. Also active in the group 500 Women Scientists.