HNSE-P4-4. Investigating the Effects of Microorganisms on Microplastics in Anoxic Freshwater Environments

Alicia McGrann1
Jacimaria Batista, Ph.D.2
Faculty Mentor: Aude Picard, Ph.D.1
1College of Science, School of Life Sciences
2Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Construction

Our purpose in this investigation is to observe the relationship between certain bacterial species and plastic in freshwater, anoxic environments with the hopes of finding one or more species that have the capability to degrade plastics metabolically as a source of carbon or by producing one or more waste products that can be corrosive to plastic. There is evidence that microplastics in the environment can cause harm to living organisms including humans through drinking water, so we will explore the idea that a successful species can be placed in the anoxic environment of wastewater treatment plants to degrade the microplastics found there before the water exits the system since, at this point, there is not a mechanism that can successfully eliminate all microplastics in that system. We have started this project with a sulfate-reducing species called Desulfovibrio magneticus. The methods we used include incubating this species with different types of plastics and measuring sulfate reduction with the spectrophotometer at differing lengths of incubation time. We will use light microscopy and FTIR spectroscopy to observe changes in the plastic and have weighed the plastic before incubation and will weigh them after to determine any weight loss from degradation. Measuring cell counts and concentrations of protein will help determine microbial growth in the incubations. One of the plastic types has shown visible change in color in incubations with bacterial growth and no color change in incubations without inoculation. We will further explore whether this change has occurred because of the bacterium.


Nov 15 - 19 2021


All Day


HNSE: Poster Session 4
The Office of Undergraduate Research


The Office of Undergraduate Research


One Reply to “HNSE-P4-4. Investigating the Effects of Microorganisms on Microplastics in Anoxic Freshwater Environments”

  1. Hi Alicia,
    I found your project very interesting and I hope future testing goes well. I was not surprised that only 9% of plastic was recycled. It is a shame to see how much is wasted daily. I have been concerned with micro plastics since I went to a beach and noticed the sand was full of plastic particles. This plastic making its way into drinking water is scary. Especially since you pointed out that they’re broken down by sun exposure, which we have a lot of here. I heard that Vegas recycles over 100% of its water so it’s worrisome that there’s definitely plastic getting mixed in. I am not familiar with bacterium, but it’s good to hear there’s potential for isolating a microbe that may decompose plastic into benign waste. I am glad UNLV has this study going on!

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