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Plastics for Dinner? Exploring Corals Eating Microplastics Across the Pacific

There is hardly a place on earth where plastics have not been found. We see plastics in the deepest parts of the ocean, the most remote places in the world, and even in the human body. Our lives are overrun with the use of plastics. From our vehicle tires to grocery bags, and even our clothes, we rely on plastic products for many different uses. For each of these products to have their desired characteristics like the durability of our car tires and light weight of our grocery bags, chemicals are added during manufacturing. When plastics end up in the natural world, many of these chemicals are released and other chemicals accumulate from the environment. We do not have a great understanding of the effects of these contaminants.


Over the last century, only ~9% of plastics have been estimated to be recycled and almost 300,000 metric tons of plastic waste is estimated to be floating in our oceans. Most people are familiar with the sad and scary images of marine life eating plastics. However, not too many people know that corals eat plastics too. As an important resource worth $375 billon per year, home of 25% of all marine life [3] and an important cultural asset, we urgently need to better understand how these organisms are being impacted. Therefore, I will be exploring the chemical composition and types of plastics being eaten by corals across the NOAA Pacific Region National Marine Sanctuaries and Monuments. to provide key information about potential threats posed to corals and the people which depend upon them.

Main Hawaiian Islands and Papahanaumokuakea

American Sāmoa

Environment Pollution

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