Department or Program
Earth and Environmental Science
College of Arts and Sciences
Faculty Mentor #1
Nanoplastics (NPs), defined as plastic particles < 0.1 mm, have become an emerging concern in aquatic environments due to their multiple pathways of entry into rivers and streams. NPs may originate from the manufactured beads for personal care products as well as the from the fragmentation of larger plastic items. Due to their small size they are easily ingested by aquatic organisms, resulting in detrimental health effects such as digestive tract obstructions, feeding debilitation, and energy depletion. Due to their physiochemical attributes, NPs have also been shown to sorb and mobilize organic pollutants such as pesticides, suggesting that interactions between these two types of pollutants may result in an altered biological response compared to the effects of each individual contaminant. This study assessed the potential synergistic or antagonistic effects of polyethylene nanoparticles and the organochlorine pesticide methoxychlor on the viability and mobility of Daphnia magna. Adult D. magna were exposed to either 1) virgin 10-20µm polyethylene pellets, 2) methoxychlor, or 3) various combinations of the same pellet and methoxychlor concentrations for 48 hours or 7 days using a static exposure method. Mortality and paralysis were assessed per 24 hours of exposure. Mobility was assessed after 24 hours of exposure. To assess mobility, individuals were recorded in a light-controlled behavioral chamber for 3 minutes. Footage was analyzed using ToxTrac to quantify mobile speed, acceleration, and distance traveled. While this project is currently ongoing, we expect to find a significant difference in mobility parameters and mortality rates when exposed to the combination of polyethylene pellets and methoxychlor compared to the effects from each contaminant alone. Thus far, few studies have examined the ability of NPs to influence the toxicity of organochlorine pesticides in aquatic invertebrates. This study will help explicate the impacts of plastic pollution on aquatic biota in freshwater systems.