Posted: April 20, 2022
CRYSTAL COVE :: Dr. Mark McReynolds, Adjunct Associate Professor at HIU, has partnered with A Rocha, a Christian-based non-profit organization whose mission is to restore both people and places through community-based conservation, to collect and study nurdles (tiny preproduction plastic pellets) and their trail into the environment. McReynolds is conducting an extensive research project to find out if the plastic pollution problem at our local beaches is getting better or worse.
“Establishing a baseline count of the presence of nurdles – and, more broadly, any microplastics – is the focus of Dr. McReynolds’ scientific study here. Charting the count, noting tide, current, and weather conditions will show if amounts are increasing, and perhaps at what rate and why. That knowledge, he says, can inform solutions to plastic pollution such as regulation of their use.”
Fellow HIU Professor and wife, Karen McReynolds, aids in this study at the University’s lab and highlights the project in her classes. Students are also invited to join the complex monthly microplastic sampling and a twice-annual nurdle hunt.
Nurdles (plastic pellets) are the raw stock that is melted at factories and formed into various plastic items. Nurdles are spilled during transport or at the factories and some eventually enter streams and oceans via runoff or storm drains. They absorb human-made toxic chemicals while in the ocean.
These pellets have been found in large numbers on Orange County beaches as well as in sediment off the southern California coast. Since they are quite small -- often 1-2mm in diameter -- nurdles generally go unnoticed by people, but are eaten by both fish and birds because they look like fish eggs.
“This project is a great opportunity for teaching environmental science, earth science, and biology, as students learn firsthand about organisms and how they are impacted by the ecosystems in which they live,” reported Professor Karen McReynolds.