By Zhanna Leavitt
Faculty Mentor: Professor Andrew Dolby
Plastic pollution has accumulated to a concerning degree in many of the world’s ecosystems. Microplastics are some of the smallest plastic debris and are generally defined as plastic fragments less than 5mm in diameter. Given their small size, microplastic fibers and fragments can easily enter aquatic ecosystems and the species that feed in or near the water, such as waterfowl. Studies have found microplastics present in the gastrointestinal tract and in fecal samples of several freshwater bird species. Since Canada Geese are commonly found in the Fredericksburg, VA area, I decided to quantify microplastics found in Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) fecal samples in several Fredericksburg locations. I wanted to test the hypothesis that microplastic concentration was correlated to sample location. I obtained fecal samples from Ficklen Island, Old Mill Park, and the parking lot of the Outback Steakhouse in Central Park. The samples underwent digestion in 20 mL of aqueous 0.05 M Fe(II) solution and 40 mL of H2O2 and then vacuum filtrated to isolate microplastics. I then quantified microplastic under a dissecting microscope. There was no correlation between microplastic concentration and sampling location however, the majority of samples contained microplastics. Blue fibers were the most common microplastic type. Microplastics were present in nearly all of the samples supporting the evidence that waterfowl are regularly ingesting microplastics from their environment.