Plastic Pollution in Freshwaters, From Rivers to Oceans

Friday, August 17, 2018 - 7:00pm

plastic pollution in freshwaters

Did you know that most of the plastic polluting our oceans was swept downstream by rivers? Loyola University aquatic ecologist Timothy Hoellein will discuss the ecology of plastic garbage – including its production, disposal, and accumulation in the environment. Learn about the biological impacts of plastic pollution in freshwaters, how it degrades ecosystems, and tools being developed to prevent the problem.

Tim is currently studying the effects of plastic pollution on freshwater ecosystems in Baltimore and Chicago. Through this work, he aims to better understand the sources and abundance of plastic pollution in the environment, how it moves, and how it interacts with living things. Zooming in from the ecosystem-scale, his team is also measuring the types and amount of plastic being ingested by fish and invertebrates in these systems.

One area of this work focuses on microbial life and how different types of plastic pollution support communities of microorganisms.

Tim explains, “There is a large size range of plastic pollution in the environment – from things you can see to very small particles. We want to know how microbial life colonizes that plastic material, whether or not microbes are able to decompose different kinds of plastics, and how these interactions affect the way that invertebrates and fish are ingesting plastic pollution.”

Early results suggest that microplastics – which most wastewater treatment mechanisms do not remove – shield potentially harmful microbes, including fecal bacteria, from sterilization and allow them to persist in the environment.

Tim also examines the impacts of land use changes on the amount and kinds of plastic pollution found in the surrounding environment – and the amount of plastic that ends up inside organisms.

“Ultimately, we are trying to determine: what kind of plastic is out there, where does it come from, what are its effects – and how can we use this information to establish conservation priorities?”

Registration required.

General admission registration does not guarantee entry. Admission is first-come first-served, based on venue capacity. We suggest arriving by 6:30pm.

Aldo Leopold Society members may contact Vicki Doyle for reserved seating at or (845) 677-7600 x203


Cary Institute auditorium
2801 Sharon Turnpike (Route 44)
Millbrook, NY

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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