Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than 5 mm which is about the width of a pencil eraser. They are often mistaken as food and ingested by marine animals of all sizes, from tiny plankton to huge whales. Plastic contains toxins, like BPA, but also absorbs additional pollutants from the water column. Once ingested, the toxins enter the marine food web, where they impact wildlife and seafood.
Research on microplastics is an emerging field. Not a lot is known about their impacts yet. Through Gulf Star, Mississippi State University’s Coastal Extension and Research Center developed a Gulf-wide citizen scientist microplastic sampling program. These trained volunteers collect, count, and record microplastics in sediment and water samples across the region. To date, there are 100 sampling sites monitored by 13 different concerned citizen groups contributing to this new research field.