BVU Students Team Up with High School to Study Microplastics in Marine Environments
This semester, six BVU students are working with a Storm Lake High School advanced ecology class to analyze microplastics in marine environments such as Storm Lake.
This semester, six Buena Vista University (BVU) students are working with a Storm Lake High School (SLHS) advanced ecology class to analyze microplastics in marine environments such as Storm Lake.
The group of students led by Dr. Ben Maas, assistant professor of environmental science and geology, and Angela Mesenbrink, SLHS science teacher, met on the shores of BVU’s campus and Frank Starr Park to take water and sand samples. As part of Maas’ introduction to environmental science class, the BVU and high school students will be processing the samples to remove the sand and organic matter to determine the amount of microplastics found along the beaches. The high school students will then work with BVU to analyze and identify the types of microplastics under microscopes and then present their data this spring.
"It was eye opening for us all to learn that even in northwest Iowa we have microplastic pollution, which will help raise awareness on this important issue."
Dr. Ben Maas
According to Maas, sources of microplastics, smaller than 5 mm, are common and include items such as broken plastic, plastic pellets, microbeads, and synthetic clothing fibers. The microplastics are transported into the environment and become nearly invisible after they degrade and can be found in both marine water and freshwater systems. Maas says, “Microplastics have become an environmental concern because everywhere scientists look, they find them. The reason being microplastics just do not break down beyond the microplastic size. While how serious this is to the environment or if people are being affected is not known, it is known that microplastics are commonly found along beaches and in wild animals.” He added, “It was eye opening for us all to learn that even in northwest Iowa we have microplastic pollution, which will help raise awareness on this important issue.”
The BVU students participating are:
- Meghan Bissen of Harlan, Iowa
- Wren Klump of Willcox, Arizona
- Nathan Pedersen of Newell, Iowa
- Elizabeth Reiva of Sioux City, Iowa
- Noah Schmitt of Norwalk, Iowa
- McKeely Tjaden of Colfax, Iowa