In recent years the magnitude of the problem of plastics in the marine environment has become increasingly well-known, but less research has been done in freshwater systems. Thomas Bustamante, a junior majoring in biological sciences, examined the gizzards of five species of water fowl, in order to document the presence of plastic particles and identify their source as either primary or secondary. The polymer types were further characterized through the use of infrared spectroscopy. Preliminary results indicate that freshwater birds consume microplastics and it is anticipated that higher concentrations may be found in birds that feed in urban areas and downstream from water treatment plants. Bustamante received a travel grant to present his research at a meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry held in Toronto, Canada in November 2019. The next steps to his study will involve sampling bird intestines and feces, along with more gizzards. His primary faculty mentor is Dr. Andrew Dolby, Professor of Biology, and he has also received assistance from Dr. Ben Kisila and Dr. Tyler Frankel, who are faculty members in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
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