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News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 30, 2017 and Island Ad-Vantages, November 30, 2017 and The Weekly Packet, November 30, 2017
MERI researchers to report on Blue Hill Bay microplastics

Researchers at the Marine & Environmental Research Institute made several important discoveries this year about microplastics in Blue Hill Bay, according to a press release. They will share these findings with the public on Tuesday, December 5, at 6 p.m. at the MERI Center for Environmental Studies at 55 Main Street.

Interns Margaret Stack and James Chhor are the researchers who will present their new information on conditions in the bay. Marine Research Coordinator Madelyn Woods will introduce them and moderate a panel discussion following their talks. Light refreshments will be served.

Throughout the bay, surface waters contain microplastics, small plastic fragments that swimmers and marine species can easily swallow.

Over the past six months, Chhor, a graduate of the University of California, Davis, has successfully mapped out the distribution of microplastics across the bay and will point to possible sources that should be addressed. His talk will also address whether there are “hot spots” of concentrated microplastics in the bay, and where the plastics are coming from.

Marine bivalves and fish mistake these tiny fragments of plastic for their food and ingest them. Stack, interning at MERI out of Boston College, has completed research that addresses the question, “How much plastic can a mussel eat?” And the obvious, related question, “How much plastic are people consuming in seafood?”

Through its graduate internship program, MERI promotes the professional development of young scientists that come to Blue Hill from top universities across the U.S. and occasionally from Europe. Most of MERI’s interns go on to develop advanced degrees and successful careers in environmental health.

“Some years, we see a young scientist with outstanding capability who has a significant career path ahead,” said Dr. Susan Shaw, MERI founder and director. “This year we were extremely fortunate to host two such individuals who are clearly going to make a difference in the world.”

With a Bachelor of Science in marine biology, Stack will stay on at MERI through spring 2018 in the new capacity of research assistant before pursuing doctoral studies at San Diego State College.

Chhor holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife, fish, and conservation biology. He plans to pursue an advanced degree related to his work at MERI, combining marine biology and climate change.