This last weekend I was able to go out to the Island with Dr. Clare Steele and the Conservation Biology class. I was able to enjoy the plethora of knowledge and experience it has to offer. Santa Rosa Island is beautiful but in a period of restoration and recovery from its long history of human inhabitants.
I was able to help Michaela Miller with her capstone of Marine Debris collection along some of the remote beaches of the island including Arlington Canyon, Sandy Point, Cluster Point and Skunk point. I also visited Bechers Bay and Water canyon to collect sand samples and test for micro plastics. All in all it was an excellent weekend! Overall every sand sample I collected had microfibers and microplastics in it.
As of Friday I was able to get 31 sand crabs dissected and 20 of them had ambient fibers in their stomach content or surrounding tissues. That is approximately 64% of the sandcrabs so far have ambient fibers. Since the data from the summer research institute shows that a high percentage of the beaches sampled also had fibers and micro plastics, I hypothesize I will continue to find microfibers in the sand crabs.
Over the weekend I was able to travel north to San Louis Obispo county and collect 35 more crabs from 3 different sites as well as sand samples to process. Hopefully my contacts in Orange county, Santa Cruz and San Francisco will come thru with more sand crabs and sand samples as well. I am hoping to get a wide geographic range in sampling to see what I find.
Once the collected crabs are dissected I plan to test a hypothesis that the sand crabs will ingest micro plastics by sequestering them into small jars with sea water and exposing them to plastic microbeads I have filtered out of a face soap product that will be on the “to be banned” list if legislation is passed.
Today Vanessa VanHeerden and I found that there are micro-plastics in some of the sand samples from the Cook islands. We will be processing the rest of the 85 samples throughout the next month.
On another note: Under the advisement and guidance of Dr. Clare Wormald-Steele and Dr. Sean Anderson last week I started exposing the collected sample of sand crabs to micro plastic beads to see if they would ingest them. After 1 week the sand crabs were frozen and then dissected today. Vanessa VanHeerden and I found that over 80% of them had ambient fibers/plastics in their digestive tracts. 1 of the sand crabs that was exposed to micro plastic beads had 92 plastic microbeads inside of it. These are initial findings and we plan to investigate further.
Microplastics in Sandy Beach Infauna