Occurrence, Distribution, and Composition of Microplastics in Bays and Estuaries of the Texas Coastal Bend

Principal Investigator

With the dramatic increase production of plastics and poor management of plastic debris, microplastics are becoming a serious ecological and economic problem in marine environments, and this problem is expected to get worse with the increasing plastic production in the future. Knowing the distribution and composition of microplastics in the marine environments, therefore, is of vital importance if we are to predict the seriousness of this environment problem and implement appropriate policy for management.

Expectedly, plastic pollution may endanger the health of coastal ecosystems with the continuous input of microplastics to bays and estuaries in the Coastal Bend, yet there is little data. To gain baseline data, we will collect and analyze microplastics in waters of Copano Bay, Aransas Bay, Corpus Christi Bay, Nueces Bay, Upper Laguna Madre, and Baffin Bay quarterly, including some opportunity sampling at the Cole Park and Brawner Parkway drain outlets right after floods. Specifically, we will identify the size and polymer types of plastics in these waters, which will offer insights into the potential pollution sources. We will also evaluate the seasonality of plastic abundance and polymer types. These baseline data will help policy makers evaluate the source and degree of the plastics contamination and the potential ecological impact, and make appropriate action or policies to maintain healthy estuarine ecosystems.

A series of outreach activities will be accompanied with this project.