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RIT researchers using grant to study microplastics pollution in Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario from Charlotte Pier, near site of future research center.
WXXI photo
Lake Ontario from Charlotte Pier, near site of future research center.

Researchers at RIT are working to find out how tiny particles of plastic pollution are impacting Lake Ontario. Earlier this year, the university received a $240,000 federal grant as part of the Sea Grant College Program.

Associate  Professor Christy Tyler says that much of the research so far has focused on the impact of microplastics in oceans.

But she said that lakes can be affected also, and with those freshwater bodies, the plastic particles are more likely to accumulate in the sediment of the bottom of the lake.

"To be able to look at a whole suite of different kinds of plastics and different sizes of plastics. We also will be looking at what happens with the plastic over time as it ages in the lake and trying to pinpoint which plastics are the ones that have the most potential to cause ecological damage,” Tyler said.

Tyler says the restrictions on using their lab because of the coronavirus has changed the timeline somewhat for the research they are planning. But they still hope to have results of their research in about a year.

Tyler says the microplastics can cause disruption of the ecosystem and the idea behind this research at RIT is to eventually help inform public policy.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.