Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019MS144B

Microplastics in the Mississippi River and Mississippi Sound: concentrations, sources, sizes, types, and loadings to the northern Gulf of Mexico (Year 2)

Institute: Mississippi
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2019-03-01 End Date: 2020-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $25,805 Total Non-Federal Funds: $51,797

Principal Investigators: James Cizdziel

Abstract: Microplastics concentrations on the inner shelf of the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGoM) are among the highest levels reported globally. Because their size range overlaps that of zooplankton, they are confused with prey and are accumulating in the food chain. The plastic particles are causing deleterious effects on aquatic organisms, particularly filter-feeders such as oysters. Moreover, plastics attract (sorb) certain contaminants, such as persistent organic pollutants and mercury, and thus their accumulation in biota may be an overlooked source of contaminants to ecosystems. This is a major concern to the state and region because seafood is a vital industry for Gulf Coast states, and because, on average, Gulf Coast residents consume more seafood than other U.S. residents. It is also a national problem because the majority of microplastics in the nGoM originate from the Mississippi River (MR), whose basin encompasses thirty one states. Yet, surprisingly little is known about the concentrations, types, sizes, and loadings of microplastics in the MR and its major tributaries, and along oyster reefs in the MS Sound. This lack of data is hindering our understanding of the magnitude and sources of the problem. Our research will fill key knowledge gaps and improve people’s education around microplastic pollution and its impacts. Our approach to this large-scale problem is both collaborative and long-term (Ph.D project), and is designed around leveraging opportunities for the future. This Ph.D. research is divided into four parts: (1) student training and method development, (2) a spatial “snapshot†of microplastic pollution in the MR and its major tributaries, (3) monitoring and characterizing microplastics in the lower MR and at oyster reefs in the MS Sound, and (4) sorption/desorption behavior of mercury species with microplastics. [Note: This research was designed as a multi-year study and is nearing the end of year 1. Thus, this proposal reflects some modifications to the prior proposal based lessons learned and new developments both during year 1 and during the funding agency delay in accepting submissions. However, this is not the first year final report, so much of the proposal remains the same.]