CORVALLIS, Ore. - Over $3 million has been given to researchers at Oregon State University.
It's a grant that was provided by the National Science Foundation to study the micro and nano plastics and their potential impact on aquatic life.
Despite the efforts we have made in recycling plastics, researchers say micro and nano plastics can still be in the air and do potential harm to aquatic life.
“The problem is that plastic debris is all over in our aquatic systems right now,” said Stacy Harper, an assistant professor at OSU. “Those large pieces of plastics that we see, all kinds of fish. Those larger plastics break down into smaller plastics.”
That's the bad news, but the good news is the $3.3 million grant that will give Harper and her colleague a better chance to hopefully make things right for aquatic life.
“I am incredibly thrilled and thankful to be working with Stacey,” said Susanne Brander, at OSU. “I'm still kind of pinching myself. Given the size of the grant, and the National Science Foundation has given such strong support.
And with that support, they're on a mission to make tools and techniques to look into microplastics. Both Harper and Brander then plan to make their way into the nano plastics world to see how aquatic life are affected.
“I think it's getting worse,” said Harper. “We have decades of plastics that are starting to degrade into that micro and nano and they don't go away.”
Harper and Brander say this is only the beginning of their research. In the meantime, they are feeding algae to the plankton species in their lab to see how they react to possible amounts of microplastics. The plastics that of course, will never be seen with a naked eye.
“How the micro and nano plastics may cause harm to aquatic organisms and ultimately to ego systems services that humans rely on,” said Harper.
Once microplastics are established through tools and methods, harper and brander will go deeper into nano plastics.
They say current technology to identify nanoparticles in environmental samples does not exist yet.
The researchers have a time frame of until about February to present their research findings.