Microplastics in the aquatic and terrestrial environments of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Reed Kostelny, Thomas Adams, Megan Vaillancourt, Monica Dickson, Dr. Todd Wellnitz, Department of Biology, University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, 105 Garfield Ave, Eau Claire, WI, 54701

Microplastics have become a cause for concern as we learn more about their effects on organisms and the environment. Studies conducted in oceans and in areas near microplastic sources have shown that the problem of microplastics is not only widespread but growing. The goal of our research is to investigate the presence of microplastics in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), to determine their concentrations, locations, and possibly their sources. Gathering data on the distribution an abundance of microplastics in the BWCAW will help us to assess the impact humans have on natural areas and test the “leave no trace” policy at a scale previously overlooked. We collected data over the course of two years from fourteen lakes having varying amounts of canoe traffic and took samples of lake water, bottom sediments, soil cores, and earthworms. In the lab we digested, filtered, and condensed our samples, then counted microplastics based on shape and in some cases color and size using a dissecting microscope. We found microplastics in all samples. Fibers and fragments were the most abundant shapes, with other shapes being far less common. In lake water, microplastics were found throughout the water column and in similar amounts in all lakes. On land, microplastics were most concentrated at campsite locations and the earthworms found there. In the future, our study will look to examine microplastics in crayfish, fish and rainwater, and survey additional lakes to look for spatial patterns across the BWCAW.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenters: Reed Kostelny, Thomas Adams, Megan Vaillancourt, Monica Dickson

Institution: University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire

Type: Poster

Subject: Environmental Science & Sustainability

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 7
Date/Time: Tue 3:30pm-4:30pm
Session Number: 5017