‘Microplastics’ are microscopic plastic fragments, fibres and granules which are polluting our oceans and pose a risk to oceanic animals throughout the food web.
At PML, scientists in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Exeter have been researching the impacts of the smaller pieces of plastic less than 5mm in size, called microplastics, on the health of marine animals. The results show that zooplankton, which are vital food sources for larger animals like fish and whales, can eat these microplastics. Zooplankton eating microplastics eat less of their normal food, which means they get less energy from their diet, and therefore as a result have less energy for reproduction and growth.
PML Scientists Dr Matt Cole and Dr Pennie Lindeque have been working with Digital Explorer and Snowline Productions to produce a full set of GCSE science educational resources on the issue of marine microplastics. These resources are directly based on the NERC-funded research that they are undertaking looking at the biological impact of microplastics on marine animals, focusing particularly on zooplankton. These resources are funded by NERC and free to download and use anywhere in the world. The videos allow viewers to follow the team as they journey out to collect samples in the field, analyse them in the lab and reflect on their findings.