Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Samuel Mutiti

Second Advisor

Dave Bachoon

Third Advisor

Christine Mutiti


Microplastics have been introduced into the marine environment either directly from runoff or through the weathering of larger plastic debris. Currently, there was not widespread data on the distribution of microplastic particles in marine environments in the southeastern United States. Microplastic particles provide a surface for microorganisms to colonize and have the potential to serve as a vector for pathogenic bacteria distribution. Various studies have demonstrated that a wide variety of marine life can readily ingest microplastics due to their small size. The filter-feeding nature of bivalves exposes them directly to microplastics present in the environment. The purpose of this research project was to determine whether microplastic abundance correlated with the presence of the potential oyster pathogen V. splendidus. Along coastal Georgia, water and sediment samples were collected at 14 sites. Samples were collected on Sapelo Island, a state-protected island, and Tybee Island, a heavy tourist island. Due to the differences in anthropogenic impacts on the islands, it was hypothesized that there would be a significant difference in the abundance of microplastics on the two islands. The water and sediment samples were filtered and examined for microplastic fibers and microbeads. The water samples were further analyzed with quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) for the presence of V. splendidus. There was no significant correlation between microplastic abundance and the presence of V. splendidus. Although the bacteria were present at some sites, there was an absence of the tested pathogenic strains at all collection sites except for three sites on Sapelo Island. Since Tybee Island was a more populous destination, there was a significant abundance of microplastics on the island.

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Biology Commons