My project is firstly using global data of filter-feeding megafauna movement patterns, overlaid with plastic pollution maps, to assess geographical exposure to ghost fishing gear and microplastics, and the risk of entanglement and plastic ingestion.
The project is then focussing in on the central Indian Ocean, including the Chagos Archipelago. I’m looking to understand the origins of plastic pollution there, using plastic bottles, and their labels and lids to infer their brands, origins, and how long they have been at sea. I’m also looking for the presence of microplastics in manta ray feeding grounds around the Archipelago, to validate the risks of ingestion in this location.
Finally, using a systematic review and ecotoxicology experts’ opinions, I will look to understand if plastic ingestion leads to more plastic additives in tissues, and assess the best ways of carrying out this type of study.
This PhD aims to link the plastic exposure of filter-feeding megafauna to risk and subsequent impact, with the hope to inform better plastic pollution management solutions and policies.
The Chagos Archipelago is a special place for marine biodiversity, and to study anthropogenic impact on ecosystems. Using the charismatic reef manta rays as a flagship species for conservation can help generate interest and inspire action to start making changes in the way we use and dispose of plastic.
Also working with the Thames Litter Forum and the #OneLess project on assessing the pathways and accumulation patterns of plastic pollution in the Thames.