May 18, 2023

Stuck in the Rough: Fluid Dynamics of Microplastic Capture in Seagrass Beds

Location: School of Ocean Bangor  

Duration: 6 Weeks

Seagrasses are globally threatened but vital habitats, and microplastics are a rapidly emerging threat to marine ecosystems. Interactions between seagrasses and microplastics are understudied but potentially of great significance. In upcoming experiments water ‘inoculated’ with microplastics will be run over live seagrass turf in a flume to establish whether the particles are entrained by them. We anticipate that the high bed friction caused by the blades, combined with the complex morphology of the turf matrix and the adhesive polysaccharides on the surface of the grass, will cause slowing of the water and result in entrapment of the plastic.

This placement is an exciting opportunity to be a part of this world-first research. The successful applicant will undertake a semi-independent study to complement the microplastic trials. You will run parallel experiments on the friction caused by the beds, by performing dye-trace analysis of the turf in the flume. Videography will be used to evaluate the point(s) when laminar flow becomes turbulent above the grass, and help in determining whether the turbulent eddies are large and sustained enough to result in subduction of the flowing water into the turf matrix. This will also allow us the calculate the dynamic drag induced by the grass and hence improve parameterisations of flow over seagrass beds. The videos you produce will be helpful not only in directly supporting the research, but will also be used when communicating the findings to a wider audience. The videos will prove especially useful in explaining the physical mechanisms responsible for the plastic entrainment we expect to observe when the research is presented at conferences and outreach events.

This placement will provide the following benefits:

1) The opportunity to participate in world-first research with potential for impactful results.

2) The opportunity to take ownership of a project and make many of the decisions upon which its success depends.

3) The opportunity to develop a new suite of multi-disciplinary skills with benefits for employability and career development.

4) The potential to be named on subsequent publications and in outreach materials, with associated benefits for career development.

5) The potential for networking with a diverse team of researchers and a range of technicians from the School of Ocean Sciences and the School Natural Sciences, Bangor.

To apply

We encourage applications from students from all backgrounds. Please check you meet the eligibility criteria before completing the EDI Form 2023 ; this form is a mandatory part of the application process, but contains ‘prefer not to say’ options for all questions asked.

Once you have completed the online data collection form you will receive an email with the application form and details of how to apply to the supervisor. The application form should be completed and emailed to the lead supervisor along with a reference from your personal tutor.