Biospheric Microplastics Project Update

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Image: A post it note exercise from the sandpit event

Hello from the Biospheric Microplastics research team,

We’ve had a busy few months:

We held our first sandpit event on the 1st Sept which saw over 30 staff from across UWE Bristol come together to discuss microplastics. The sandpit was attended by academic, technical and professional services staff.

The event included lighting talks from Dr Adam Thomas, Paul Bowdler, Professor Tim Cox and Dr Budi Chandra. During the event we generated research ideas and identified research teams with the expertise to drive future funding proposals.

Our Research Fellow, Freya has been conducting some exciting method development work in the lab on the FT-IR, Raman and pyrolysis GC-MS. Her method of development centres around creating a process to quickly and efficiently identify microplastics using pyrolysis GC-MS, which can then be applied to a network of air quality samples around the country to determine microplastics contamination in the air.

Plastic debris collected from a strand line

This month we also started our ‘Reading for STEM’ project which is funded by the VC’s Challenge Fund. The team is an interdisciplinary team including Dr Fay Lewis, Dr Jane Carter, Dr Stephanie Sargeant, Dr Debbie Lewis, and Dr Juliet Edmonds.

The idea of the project is to make science literacy in primary schools more accessible and to encourage more young children into science – removing the mad hatter syndrome. The project plans to:

  • Bring together expertise from across UWE Bristol; Education, English & Science
  • Turn STEM into STEAM- science based literary materials
  • Include biography, poetry, play, letter, narrative and comic when talking about STEM
  • Take current UWE Bristol research & Talent and embed our novel plastic pollution research into literary forms

Research cluster update March 2022

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By Dr Ben Williams

Welcome back to another update of everything we have been up to for our Biospheric Microplastics Research Cluster over the past month:

  • We have recruited our Biospheric Microplastics Research Fellow. The new fellow will start in early May and will be crucial to helping us develop the research in our cluster further
  • We’ve recently submitted an EOI for a project focusing on the detection and characterisation of the impact of airborne Microplastics on human health
  • My MSc project students are finalising their dissertation topic proposals this month, with two looking at microplastics in the Frome river, one looking at microplastic deposition as people eat food on campus and two others looking at regional recycling regimes
  • Two current students are submitting their dissertations this month on microplastics. 1 MSc student (Sayda Shejuti) has systematically reviewed analytical approaches across the microplastics landscape, and an undergraduate student (Thilini Seneviratne) is finishing up her study on microplastic contamination along a Sri Lankan beachfront, onto which a ship spilled plastic nurdles and other microplastics.

We look forward to sharing more with you as our research develops.

Welcome to the Biospheric Microplastics Research Cluster (BMRC) blog

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Welcome to the Biospheric Microplastics Research Cluster (BMRC) blog where we plan to share with you the latest updates from the BMRC.

Microplastic pollution is a considerable emerging health and ecological crisis on a global scale. The BMRC, building on microplastic research across UWE Bristol, aims to address critical gaps in the microplastics research landscape, notably the association between environmental exposure to microplastics through source, pathway, receptor relationships, and their potential to cause harm.

The BMRC brings together expertise from multiple disciplines, all of which play a crucial role in understanding the impact of microplastics on human and ecosystem health, expanding research excellence and enhancing teaching across the university landscape.

Through understanding the human and ecosystem health implications of plastics, there is an opportunity to contribute to their redesign, reuse and replacement throughout society. The research ambitions of the BMRC closely align with the UWE Bristol 2030 Strategy and at an organisational level UWE Bristol has pledged its support to the UK Plastic Pact.

Supporting and developing researchers of the future is a core value of this cluster and is integral to the success of this project. The range of expertise and experience (Research Fellow to Professor) brought together by this cluster provides a unique and powerful perspective to yield a significant impact on this novel field of research. The cluster is led by Dr Ben Williams, Senior Research Fellow and Dr Stephanie Sargeant, Senior Lecturer.  

The BMRC will bring together and draw on existing networks, including those with the Microfibre Consortium, UK/China microplastics network, UK Environmental Mutagen Society, but will also establish new networks through activities including the development and chairing of a cross disciplinary microplastics conference.

The diversity of opportunity will ensure that skills, knowledge and expertise are not just embedded in the current cluster, but in building upon existing research excellence and developing the next generation of researchers at UWE Bristol.

We look forward to sharing with you developments from this research cluster.

This research cluster is funded through the Expanding Research Excellence scheme at UWE Bristol. The scheme aims to support and develop interdisciplinary, challenge-led research across the University. It is designed to bring together research clusters or networks that will work together to respond to challenges (local, regional, national, global) aligned with major research themes.

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