Raising funds for marine plastics pollution research being done by ASU grad student, Erin Murphy, a marine conservation ecologist pursuing a Ph.D. at Arizona State University. More on Erin’s work on identifying impacts of and solutions for marine plastic pollution can be found here.
Erin Murphy is currently leading two projects on marine plastic pollution:
Modeling the efficacy of marine plastic pollution interventions
Marine plastic pollution is a global environmental challenge. To better understand the magnitude of this problem, we developed a model that predicted annual plastic pollution leakage into the ocean under various intervention scenarios. We found that if we don't make any changes, plastic pollution will continue to increase exponentially through 2040. Even under the most ambitious intervention scenarios, plastic pollution would continue to increase, indicating that our efforts to address this problem are not keeping up with population growth and increases in production. To reduce our 2040 emissions to 2010 levels, we would have to reduce plastic production by 25-40%, manage 60-99% of waste, and recover 40% of plastic from the ocean. This provides important information about how much effort is needed to address this problem, but it does not inform what interventions are best suited to achieve these goals. To answer this question, we are developing a high-resolution model that can estimate the effectiveness of individual intervention strategies (e.g., plastic bag bans, deposit refund schemes) in reducing marine plastic pollution. We will apply this model to Hawai'i to predict how much plastic pollution Hawai'i produced in 2020, and what suite of interventions they could implement to get their emissions to zero by 2040.
Ranking species vulnerability to marine plastic pollution
More than 900 marine species have been affected by marine plastic pollution. Interactions occur primarily through ingestion and entanglement and have been observed in birds, fish, mammals, turtles, corals, and more. These interactions have been linked to injury, illness, and mortality. Despite the extensive research documenting exposure to and effects of plastic pollution on individuals, less is known about the impact plastic pollution has on species and marine communities. Understanding these higher-level effects is critical for informing policy, marine management, and prioritization. We are developing a method for predicting species’ vulnerability to plastic pollution based on their biological and ecological characteristics. By collecting data on species' characteristics, we can predict their vulnerability to plastic pollution. Then using species' range maps, we will identify the ecosystems most vulnerable to plastic pollution. These maps can inform the regions and species that should be prioritized for clean-ups and long-term monitoring.