GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 95-16
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


SCHENCK, Nadia1, BORGOGNONI, William1, LAWRENCE, Graham1, KUBIAK, Thomas1 and MUTITI, Samuel2, (1)Georgia College, 231 W Hancock St, CPO 1799, Milledgeville, GA 31061, (2)Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Georgia College and State University, Milledgeville, GA 31061

The world today is heavily dependent on plastic. Because of its many desirable characteristics such as malleability, durability, light weight, ease of production and acquisition, it is a very convenient material for packaging, storage, and many other activities. Its main advantage over other materials is its durability and resistance to decomposition. Unfortunately, these two same characteristics are the reasons why it has become a major pollutant of concern in the environment. Plastics of different sizes (including microplastics) are wreaking havoc on global ecosystems, especially aquatic environments. The goal of this project is to assess the prevalence of microplastics in aquatic systems of two barrier islands with contrasting human activities in Georgia. One barrier island, Tybee, is well developed and has significant human activity while the other island, Sapelo, remains relatively undeveloped and is protected by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Water and soil samples were collected from a variety of surface water bodies on both islands. Samples were collected in 500 mL capped sample bottles that were kept on ice and transported to the lab. A hand auger was used to collect sediments at the water-soil interface in aquatic system samples. Water samples were vacuum filtered through a 35-micron filter paper to collect suspended particles. 50 g of collected sediments were mixed with an equal volume of distilled water and thoroughly mixed by hand-shaking for one minute. Heavy particles were allowed to settle out while the light particles were filtered out in the same manner as the water samples. The filter papers were analyzed for microplastics under dissecting microscopes at 10x and 40x magnification. Using an online manual, all microplastics were identified and recorded. Preliminary results from Sapelo island show the presence of microplastic in the form of both micro-filaments and micro-particles. There was relatively more microplastics in beach samples than any other habitat. Further analyses are being carried out to include more habitats and compare the results from the two islands.