Title

Effects of Microplastics on Coral Bleaching

School Name

South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics

Grade Level

12th Grade

Presentation Topic

Zoology

Presentation Type

Mentored

Abstract

When water temperature rises, corals undergo a process called coral bleaching, where they kick out endosymbionts. However, we believe the existence of microplastics in the ocean might be speeding up this process because of normal corals' tendency to consume similar sized microplastic particles, which decreases their nutritional intake. We utilized Exaiptasia diaphana, sea anemones under the same genus as corals, as they’re easier to manipulate and replicate in a lab setting. Since no one has tested if microplastics have an accelerating effect on the bleaching process, we decided to test our hypothesis; if Artemia nauplii (brine shrimp) contaminated with microplastics were fed to anemones, the bleaching process would be induced and more likely to occur. We observed the bleaching process of two anemones over the duration of a week to determine needed temperature increments. We set up four groups of anemones, two control groups in high and low temperature, and two microplastic-fed groups in high and low temperatures. The high temperature microplastic group sustained the most visible bleaching. No strong correlation between microplastics and bleaching was apparent in our data, but we identified possible sources of error. These include the malfunctioning of the tissue homogenizer, incubator, and personal error. Although the data doesn’t entirely support our hypothesis, there is a strong association between bleaching susceptibility and microplastics, increasing chances of reproducing the experiment. The correlation gives us another clear example of the detrimental effects of plastic pollution in oceans and another motive to preserve coral reefs for future generations.

Location

HSS 107

Start Date

4-2-2022 9:30 AM

Presentation Format

Oral Only

Group Project

Yes

COinS
 
Apr 2nd, 9:30 AM

Effects of Microplastics on Coral Bleaching

HSS 107

When water temperature rises, corals undergo a process called coral bleaching, where they kick out endosymbionts. However, we believe the existence of microplastics in the ocean might be speeding up this process because of normal corals' tendency to consume similar sized microplastic particles, which decreases their nutritional intake. We utilized Exaiptasia diaphana, sea anemones under the same genus as corals, as they’re easier to manipulate and replicate in a lab setting. Since no one has tested if microplastics have an accelerating effect on the bleaching process, we decided to test our hypothesis; if Artemia nauplii (brine shrimp) contaminated with microplastics were fed to anemones, the bleaching process would be induced and more likely to occur. We observed the bleaching process of two anemones over the duration of a week to determine needed temperature increments. We set up four groups of anemones, two control groups in high and low temperature, and two microplastic-fed groups in high and low temperatures. The high temperature microplastic group sustained the most visible bleaching. No strong correlation between microplastics and bleaching was apparent in our data, but we identified possible sources of error. These include the malfunctioning of the tissue homogenizer, incubator, and personal error. Although the data doesn’t entirely support our hypothesis, there is a strong association between bleaching susceptibility and microplastics, increasing chances of reproducing the experiment. The correlation gives us another clear example of the detrimental effects of plastic pollution in oceans and another motive to preserve coral reefs for future generations.