Rutgers was awarded a $320,000 grant from the NOAA Marine Debris Program to study the movement of microplastics from riverine to oceanic systems and the role this area may play as the entry point for microplastics into the food chain. The university was among four awardees of 2019 funding totaling $1.2 million focused on research of marine debris.
Robert Chant, professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences (DMCS), is the lead principal investigator (PI) of the two-year project, “Buoyant river outflows as a control on microplastic fate and transport, sources, transformations, dispersion, and sinks.” Rutgers co-PIs on the project are Grace Saba, assistant professor, DMCS, Nicole Fahrenfeld, associate professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering, and Georgia Arbuckle-Keil, professor, Department of Chemistry, Rutgers–Camden.
Marine debris is a relatively new field of research, and there are many opportunities to advance understanding of how debris impacts the environment. It is not only a threat to the ocean, Great Lakes and waterways, but can affect navigation safety, the economy and potentially, human health.
Unique oceanographic characteristics exist where rivers and the ocean meet and the Rutgers project will examine how these characteristics may influence the movement of marine debris from one system to the other and the assimilation of microplastics in the marine food chain.
The NOAA Marine Debris Program held a nationwide competitive funding opportunity to support original, hypothesis-driven research projects focused on the ecological risk assessment, exposure studies, and fate and transport of marine debris. To address this growing challenge, the program is dedicated to investigating and preventing the adverse impacts of marine debris in our nation’s marine environment and Great Lakes.
Congress authorized the NOAA Marine Debris Program in 2006 as the lead federal program for addressing marine debris. This program was reauthorized in 2018 through the Save Our Seas Act.