Macroplastic and microplastic pollution is a rapidly worsening environmental problem which endangers ocean ecosystems, impacts tourism, and has possibly negative effects on human health. Concerns about both microplastic and macroplastic pollution should be especially pertinent to the Taiwanese public because (1) macroplastic pollution has reached catastrophic proportions along Taiwan's coastline negatively impacting the tourism industry and (2) a relatively high proportion of people‘s diet comes from seafood which may cause Taiwanese citizens to ingest microplastics or become exposed to chemicals which enter the food chain via leaching into the environment. After co-authoring the first study on microplastic pollution of sandy beaches along Taiwan’s northern coast, I propose to expand the search for microplastics to rivers and to seafood regularly consumed by Taiwanese people. Furthermore, I will analyze a long-term dataset of macroplastic pollution already compiled by the Taiwanese NGO “Society of Wilderness.” During 355 cleaning activities along Taiwan’s coasts since 2004, the Society of Wilderness collected data on the amounts and types of macroplastics (cleanocean.sow.org.tw). In the first year, I will map the localities of these 355 cleaning activities and then use multivariate statistical techniques and machine learning techniques to link the amounts of macroplastics found to various independent variables, such as distance to nearest city, distance to nearest river, type of beach, etc. I will also purchase both uncooked seafood as well as seafood dishes to test them for the presence of microplastics. I will use a solution which does not dissolve plastics to dissolve animal tissues (Environmental Pollution 2016, 215: 223-233). The dissolved animal tissues will be filtered and will then be identified by attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy. In the second year, I will investigate five of the largest river systems of Taiwan and sample macroplastic and microplastic pollution at approximately 10 km intervals beginning at the river’s mouth and moving upstream along one of its tributaries. At each sampling point, macroplastics will be sampled using a standardized protocol and microplastics will be sampled from sediments and flowing water. The proposed research will be the first ever to look at microplastic pollution in seafood commonly consumed by Taiwanese people and the sediments and waters of Taiwan’s rivers. It may also be the first published research into macroplastic pollution of Taiwan’s rivers. My research will result in four scientific publications, two for macroplastics and two for microplastics. The results will have significant implications for several topics of public concern in Taiwan: food safety, tourism, environmental sustainability, materials economy, and interactions between science, government, and NGOs.
|Effective start/end date||8/1/17 → 7/31/18|