Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)


Marine Science


College of Science

First Advisor

George E. Boneillo


Plastics are incredibly durable synthetic polymers used in a wide variety of consumer products. Microplastics are generally defined as plastic debris ranging from 0.33 to 5 millimeters in size. Microplastic pollution in the environment is a global concern because of their propensity to serve as a vector for bioaccumlation and the spread of harmful bacteria. This study characterized the concentrations of floating microplastics in Winyah Bay, South Carolina, the surrounding freshwater river systems, and 10 miles offshore of Winyah Bay. Samples were collected according to NOAA standard techniques for microplastic collection in water using a 335 µm and 153 µm plankton net. Additionally, whole water filtration was done to determine if the current standard sampling methods were overestimating the size of these microplastics. Microplastics were found to be in relatively high concentrations in Winyah Bay, S.C. and were found to be present throughout the environment. The average concentration of microplastics in Winyah Bay was 8.76 microplastics per liter of water. The majority of the microplastics were filamentous in nature, less than 1.5 mm in size, and blue in color. The distribution of the microplastics in Winyah Bay, S.C. and the surrounding river systems followed no distinct and observable trend. Additional research is necessary to gain a more developed understanding on how these microplastics are being transported through this environment. Additionally, larger masses of microplastics in samples obtained using a smaller plankton net size suggests that it is possible that some smaller plastics are able to escape the larger sized nets and that the current standard techniques for collecting microplastics in aquatic environments are being drastically underestimated.

Included in

Oceanography Commons