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Transport, retention, and release of synthesized DNAs through microplastics affected-soils: mimicking bacteria behavior with regards to climate change and global warming

Project description

Impact of microplastics on soils

Microplastic pollution of the marine environment has received considerable attention, but microplastics also threaten the soil environment. The underlying mechanisms and wider impacts are poorly understood. The EU-funded TRAMPAS project will fill this knowledge gap by exploring whether microplastics increase the hydrophobicity of the soil pore surface, thereby increasing the movement of potentially pathogenic microorganisms. The initiative will address two challenges of societal importance: microplastic pollution and pathogen fate in the environment. Researchers will first quantify how climatic stresses and soil properties interact with microplastics to induce hydrophobicity and conduct leaching experiments using synthesised DNA. Scientists will then measure soil pore scale processes using microfluidics and explore the formation of microbial colonised microplastics (the plastisphere).

Objective

Microplastic pollution has received considerable attention for the marine environment, but hidden out of sight are microplastics in soil. In Europe alone, there are likely more microplastics in soil than in all the world’s oceans. Microplastics can adversely affect soils, but the underlying mechanisms and wider impacts are poorly understood. A significant impact could be increased hydrophobicity of the soil pore surface, which can increase the movement of potentially pathogenic microorganisms. I found that the concentration of microplastics and soil temperature increase the soil-water contact angle, a measure of hydrophobicity. This project will explore how microplastics influence soil through the development of hydrophobicity and the impacts to bacteria and virus transport and retention. It builds on my recent research that was the first to link the development of soil hydrophobicity with increased leaching of bacteria. Two challenges of societal importance are addressed: (1) microplastic pollution and (2) pathogen fate in the environment.
I will bring together a range of approaches, starting first with quantifying how climatic stresses and soil properties interact with microplastics to induce hydrophobicity. This will be followed by leaching experiments, where microbial retention and leaching will be tracked with a novel approach using synthesised DNA. Soil pore scale processes will be measured using microfluidics, where the spread and retention of microbes and water can be visualised directly under highly controlled conditions. Finally, I will study microplastic contaminated soil, exploring the formation of microbial colonised microplastics – the ‘plastisphere’.
Working with a strong multidisciplinary team I will gain excellent training in state-of-the-art analysis approaches. By using highly visual approaches in my research, such as microfluidics, I will be able to demonstrate its impact to a range of audiences, from the public, through policy, to scientists.

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Coordinator

UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN
Net EU contribution
€ 224 933,76
Address
King's college regent walk
AB24 3FX Aberdeen
United Kingdom

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Region
Scotland North Eastern Scotland Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Other funding
€ 0,00