Graduate Research School Available Projects Trophic transfer of microplastics in tropical marine environments

Trophic transfer of microplastics in tropical marine environments

Title of Project

Trophic transfer of microplastics in tropical marine environments


Frederieke Kroon, Amanda Dawson

College or Research Centre


Summary of Project

Marine plastic pollution has become a global environmental concern, growing exponentially over the years. After time, plastic pollution breaks down into what is known as microplastics (< 5mm in size), becoming the optimal prey range size for many aquatic species. Microplastics ingestion has been confirmed for many marine species, however there is limited evidence that microplastics transfer within the food web into higher trophic levels, and associated potential physical and/or chemical impacts of organism within the food web. This study aims to investigate potential trophic pathways of marine microplastics in food webs of tropical marine ecosystems. Field collections will be combined with controlled laboratory studies to examine levels of contamination, and transfer pathways of microplastics from zooplankton to higher level organisms within a multi-level food web. Feeding trials and experiments will be done with common plastic polymer type, chemical additives and particle sizes. The findings will contribute to a better understanding of the ecological impacts of microplastics on tropical marine environments.

Key Words

microplastic; contamination; ingestion; food web; trophic transfer; tropical coral reef

Would suit an applicant who

The successful applicant should have an interest in conducting research on contamination of marine environments in general, and on microplastics contamination in particular, as well as relevant research experience such as a 1st class Honours degree. Experience with analytical methods to describe microplastics (e.g. microscopy, spectroscopy) would be a distinct advantage. Relevant first-authored publications in the area of microplastics would be rated highly, as would the ability to work collaboratively and successfully in larger teams. Students with a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Ecological field may be considered – for example, Marine Biology, Ecotoxicology, Ecology, and Toxicology.

Updated: 11 Apr 2020