Michael Wiest, 2015, Chemical and Biological Engineering

My research this past summer focused on analyzing microplastic concentrations in Aegean Sea sediment and in Aegean sea cucumbers. Microplastics are a growing threat not only to international waters but also to the health of marine life and humans; they endure for an extremely long time and accumulate organic toxins which can be transmitted into the trophic chain. My main project consisted of sampling sediment in the sea along the shore, at depths of 3 meters and 6 meters, and finding sea cucumbers and collecting their excrement. I then compared the microplastic concentration of the excrement to that of the surrounding sediment. I altered the methodology for sampling sediment and sea cucumbers to make the data more comparable on a per mass basis. I also prompted the research to analyze organic toxin concentrations in the collected microplastic samples. I gained many skills related to collecting samples and the proper ways of storing and organizing them. I also became very proficient at analyzing microscope slides for microplastics. This research has reaffirmed my love of marine biology and it makes me want to introduce it into my major.