Coast tripping for sustainability

Led by Associate Professor Sophie Leterme, a team from Flinders University is preparing to embark on a road trip along the South Australian coast and is raising funds for the important mission to assess the level of microplastics found in the waters and sands of local coasts.

Associate Professor Leterme and her team including Flinders Professor Paul Kirkbride, and students Anna Hayes and Tamar Jamieson, will drive the 2116 km from Ceduna to Port Macdonnell and stop at 23 sites along the way to research and document their findings.

More than 60 percent of world litter is plastic, and almost 10 percent of annual plastic production ends up in the oceans where it can take hundreds of years to break down.

The impacts on sea wildlife can be devastating, but less understood are the effects of microplastics – tiny fragments measuring less than 5mm that include microbeads found in exfoliants and industrial abrasives, fibres from synthetic clothes and many other sources.

Ingestion of microplastics causes problems with animal physiology and health, including through its replacement of food sources and the subsequent impacts on growth and reproduction. This is particularly important for smaller organisms that are at the base of the food chain, such as zooplankton, with impacts flowing on through the marine food chain. Additional impacts from the leaching of chemicals are as yet unknown.

A crowdfunding page has been established, noting the targets required to undertake each stage of the project.

An initial amount of $13,800 will allow Professor Leterme and her team to assess the amount of microplastic along SA’s shoreline; a further $7,000 will identify the sources of these plastics; and an additional $10,700 will support the team to ascertain how much of this is ingested by zooplankton.

Staff are encouraged to spread the word. Find out more.

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