Modelling plastic pollution in the Great Barrier Reef

Modelling plastic pollution in the Great Barrier Reef

Title of Project

Modelling plastic pollution in the Great Barrier Reef

Name of Advisor/s

Barbara Robson (AIMS), Frederieke Kroon (AIMS)

College

AIMS@JCU

Summary of Project

Plastic pollution in marine environments is a growing concern globally. Research to understand the extent and nature of plastic pollution is an emerging hot topic and the impacts of microplastic pollution in particular (i.e. plastic particles less than 5mm) are not yet well understood. Recent AIMS research has demonstrated that microplastic pollution is widespread, even in the Great Barrier Reef. In this project, the student will develop numerical models to trace the path and track the distribution of microplastics in the Great Barrier Reef, building on existing hydrodynamic and biogeochemical models, including previous GBR microplastic modelling, by considering the implications of microplastic buoyancy and particle shapes as well as interactions with other organic materials such as biofilms. The models developed will be used to put measured microplastic concentrations into context in order to address such questions as:
* What is the total mass of microplastics in the Great Barrier Reef?
* Where do microplastics in the Great Barrier Reef come from, and where do they end up?
* Are there regions where microplastics can be expected to accumulate?
* Do different microplastics behave differently in the marine environment?
* What might the variable distribution of microplastics in the marine environment mean for marine food webs?

Contact: b.robson@aims.gov.au

Keywords

Great Barrier Reef; hydrodynamic modelling; microplastics; oceanography; plastic pollution; water quality; environment

Would suit an applicant who

The successful applicant should have an interest in marine science, a strong quantitative background and some prior programming experience (e.g. in compiled language such as C++ or Fortran as well as an interpreted language such as R, Python or Matlab) as well as relevant research experience such as a 1st class or 2a Honours degree. Students with a Bachelor’s degree in any sufficiently quantitative field may be considered – for example, Oceanography, Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, Meteorology or Engineering. Students with a degree in Marine Science, Environmental Science or Ecology could be considered if they have completed appropriate university-level coursework in mathematics. Some prior knowledge of fluid dynamics and/or environmental chemistry would be an advantage, but not required.