Please note that this program is only open to current freshmen, sophomores, and juniors matriculating at a RI college or university (graduating in 2021, 2022, and 2023).

More information on this opportunity is available from the RI-CAIM website, plus there are other projects to choose from. Below is my project with my colleague Dr Coleen Suckling that is focussing on microplastics. Deadline for applications is Feb 7, 2020. I encourage interested students to contact me.

Microplastics in Narragansett Bay
Coleen Suckling (URI) & Andrew Davies (URI)

Project Location University of Rhode Island – Main Campus (Kingston, RI)

Open to SURF Flex applicants? Yes

Project Description Our oceans contain microplastic (MP) pollution and marine organisms have been shown to ingest these anthropogenic particles. Despite some species being able to egest MPs, they may cause physical damage along the digestive tract. Persistent organic pollutants and harmful bacteria (e.g. Vibrio) have been found to aggregate onto the surfaces of microplastics therefore posing additional health risks to marine organisms. Most of the available studies which determine how marine organisms respond to microplastic exposure and ingestion are modelled on plastic concentrations which are incredibly high and therefore not representative of concentrations found within the marine environment. This project presents an excellent opportunity for students to work towards understanding how environmentally relevant concentrations of microplastics occupy the marine environment and how they might impact filter feeding marine organisms within Narragansett Bay. Therefore, building on our knowledge of how anthropogenic pressures may impact Narragansett Bay ecosystems.

Students will focus on one or more of the following approaches depending on the project priorities during the fellowship: 1) applying a range of laboratory extractive collection techniques; 2) Developing an archive of digital imagery, characterization and quantifying microplastics; 3) Identification of microplastics using state-of-the-art spectroscopic techniques; 4) Setting up and running aquarium experiments assessing the responses of marine invertebrates to microplastics. It should be noted that any part-time students will focus on one of these described approaches only. This is an exciting opportunity to gain hands on experience on topics important to RI C-AIM, using C-AIM facilities, to become familiarized with complex research issues and research tools. The student will work within the RI C-AIM’s project community and their active projects which fall into several of their foci which include: i) Assessing biological and ecosystem impacts; ii) predicting ecosystem response through integration, and iii) visualization and imaging.

This project is part of RI C-AIM Research Thrust 1 – Assessing Biological & Ecosystem Impacts

This project involves both field & lab/computer work

Required/preferred skills for student applicants Reliable, enthusiastic, driven, problem solving students are strongly encouraged to apply with time management skills. Depending on the student interests and the project needs, students will need to be flexible and adaptable to whichever priorities need to be met (e.g. aquarium work or laboratory tasks). Any skills of clean laboratory working, microscope photography, image processing/analysis, aquarium and/or husbandry skills would be highly beneficial. Training will be provided where required to expand and exercise skill sets.

Is student transportation needed for this project? Yes