Last summer, WEIR (Research Unit for Water, Environment and Infrastructure Resilience) hosted Alex Gibb for her A-Level work experience placement where she researched the rise and sinking velocities of different types of microplastic particles. Working with Russell Arnott and Dr Danielle Wain at Colby College, USA, her experiment fed into the growing body of work aiming to better understand the fate of microplastics in our ocean.

Alex presented the outcome of her experiment at the 2019 Young Marine Biologists’ Summit at the Marine Biological Association, Plymouth in December. Linking her research to the summit’s theme of climate change, Alex drew upon recent findings that suggest nanoplastic particles adhere to phytoplankton where they reduce the chlorophyll content of the cell and thus its photosynthetic efficiency / ability to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The YMB Summit is designed to support those aged 11 to 18 interested in a career in marine science by giving attendees a flavour of what an academic conference is like. Speaking alongside other young marine biologists, Alex went on to win Best Presentation of the conference. Her success follows that of Tyler Bowen who presented his WEIR work experience project on 3D-printed phytoplankton at the 2018 YMB Summit and also won Best Presentation.