Microplastics in the Russian River

Microplastics in the Russian River

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Microplastics are plastics that are smaller than 5 millimeters in size. They are made of compounds that do not biodegrade, and the extent of the damage they cause to freshwater ecosystems is still being investigated. We conducted our research along the Russian River to identify the spatial distribution of microplastics. We sampled every 2 miles and started upstream at Steelhead Beach, stopped at the populated Johnson’s Beach, and made our way to Jenner, where the Russian River empties into the ocean. We hypothesized that the highest percentage of microplastics would be found downstream from Johnson’s Beach. Our methodology included submerging a five-gallon bucket and pouring its contents through several sieves. We organized the plastics by size and location. In addition, we measured the depth and stream velocity at each location. With the results from this project, Russian River conservationists are now able to use our data to create effective methods for plastic pollution prevention.

A Watershed Year is a freshman year experience that introduces students to local watersheds as they learn about science. The course focuses on teaching students how to conduct their own research. Course development was funded by National Science Foundation).


Project Results
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"Microplastics in the Russian River" poster Michaela O'Brien, Alyssa Maniscalco, Malina Evans, Jordyn Bauer