News

Part 2 – Middle School Students Use Zebra Mussels to Measure Microplastic Pollution in Lakes

By November 21, 2019 No Comments

by Paul J Sniadecki, MLSA Board Director

The October MLSA eNewsletter carried Part 1 of the news about Quinn Hughes and Tyler Clair, both seventh-graders at Minnetonka, MN – Middle School West, and their science project titled “Microplastics in Our Water; a Study of Minnesota Lakes indicated by Dreissena polymorpha (Zeba Mussels)”

The students conceived the idea to study microplastics concentrations for inland lakes after watching a documentary about microplastics in Lake Superior. They then contacted a Loyola University professor who taught them how to measure microplastics in a lake by taking samples of zebra mussels and dissolving the mussels in a potassium hydroxide solution, which leaves any microplastics intact and floating at the surface of the solution.

Many of our newsletter readers accessed the entire science project paper by following this link to the report on our website: https://www.mymlsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/RESEARCH-PAPER_Hughes_Clair.pdf

Follow-up contact with the students found the material cost of study was fairly low. The sample containers, test tubes, chemicals, etc. came to less than $100 in total for the 4 lakes involved. A hemocytometer (a slide device used in blood count tests) was required and the cost of one is in the range of $100-$150, and would be a ”one-time” expense since it is not a “consumable.” MLSA also learned each sample could be analyzed in a few moments with none taking more than 5 minutes to review. They also stated that after all of the biological tissue had dissolved the remaining solids were reviewed and classified as plastic or not which most were easily identified as plastic.

If any lake, or collaboration of lakes, undertakes a study of microplastic concentrations in their lake(s) in 2020, please share your data with MLSA. We will share your information if you grant permission. The impact of microplastics in our environment and food is being studied by many scientists worldwide. One thing for sure is they agree it is “Not Normal” for such plastics to be in the environment and knowing what the concentrations are is worth researching.