Investigations into the Roles of Organisms on Environmental Plastic Pollution
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A widespread problem that has been gaining attention from the environmental community in most recent years, is the presence of microplastics in the foods that we, and now wildlife, are consuming. Plastic waste enters natural systems through human activity such as littering through accidental or intentional dumping. Over time, plastics become brittle and eventually break down into fragments due to degradation that occurs through mechanical disruption (mowing and crushing) and weathering. These processes could also be encouraged by the growth of biofilm on their surfaces and when they are exposed to digestive enzymes in the guts of organisms that eat them accidentally or intentionally. Here, as part of a project aimed to understand the impact of plastics on the behaviors of animals, we recorded biofilm growth and the consumption of fluorescently labelled plastic particles by marine invertebrate communities of copepods. This baseline information documents the types and growth patterns of basal trophic species in the absence and presence of plastics. We also chronicle the methods for maintaining the copepod crustacean populations in culture, with emphasis on their survivorship, reproduction, and environmental needs. Lastly, we document the consumption of microplastics by these animals and compare the food availability of biofilm in treatment groups both with and without the addition of plastics.