Dr. Emily Fairfax
Microplastic pollution has been an emerging cause for concern over the last decade as we can now see the breadth of its vast disbursement and realizing how difficult it can be to manage. What is much less understood is how these microplastics interact and accumulate on the land as they pass through various watersheds and make their way to the ocean. Once deposited there they become nearly impossible to remove. However, one of nature’s most crafty ecosystem engineers, the beaver, may provide some answers to mitigating this issue. Beavers create dams that may act as natural filtration systems for waters containing microplastics before they are able to reach the ocean. Through continuous literature research, methods for collecting and testing microplastics in water samples can help researchers understand how plastics interact with wetland habitats. This research allows us to gain a better understanding of how these variables can be monitored and assessed as well as how to properly analyze these samples in the lab. Samples are collected in the field from Atascadero Ponds to be further analyzed in the lab to gain a baseline understanding of how plastics may accumulate due to beaver dam obstructions. If we are able to understand these properties it may allow us to have an opportunity to remove these microplastics before they end up in our oceans. This will decrease the amount that is ingested by animals and create less of an impact on our food webs.