Congratulations to Jessica Valenti on being selected to receive a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Award.
Microplastics (plastic particles smaller than 5 mm in size) are a prevalent pollutant in the marine environment that can accumulate in predators when they consume prey items that have ingested microplastics. Larval fishes are important prey for many marine predators, such as the fishes and invertebrates that humans rely on for food. Thus, the intake of microplastics by larval fishes has implications for the entire marine food web, fisheries and aquaculture sectors, and human health. Yet, little is known about the ingestion of microplastics by larval fishes. Using the Rutgers University Marine Field Station’s larval fish collection spanning the last 30 years, Jessica will investigate microplastic ingestion in larval fish from past and present to better understand the potential for microplastic accumulation in larval fish predators and examine larval fish characteristics that may influence microplastic ingestion. In addition, Jessica will help improve methods commonly used to identify microplastics, mentor undergraduate students on independent research projects, and create a microplastics education and outreach activity.