Microplastics and coral under blacklight.
Dennis Wise/University of Washington
Under a black light, fluorescent green microplastics are seen in the water during a small demonstration experiment. Photo credit: Dennis Wise/University of Washington

Tiny pieces of plastic in the ocean might seem innocuous on their own, but their growing presence is a frustrating issue facing marine ecosystems. The particles’ small size makes them difficult to clean up, and it also allows them to easily burrow into marine environments or even get ingested by ocean organisms.

Two University of Washington researchers are using very different methods to investigate the issue of marine microplastics. Jacqueline Padilla-Gamiño, a UW associate professor of aquatic and fishery sciences, received a grant to study how microplastics are affecting coral reef ecosystems. Michelle DiBenedetto, a UW assistant professor of mechanical engineering, received a separate grant to study how microplastics move across the ocean surface.

For Earth Day, UW News asked them to discuss their research.

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