Presenters and attendants at the 2018 Poster Session

Investigating the ability of micro- and nanoplastics to contaminate groundwater systems in Wisconsin

Project Title Investigating the ability of micro- and nanoplastics to contaminate groundwater systems in Wisconsin
PI Name Christopher Zahasky

PI Affiliation UW-Madison
Project Description Massive quantities of micro- and nanoplastics (collectively termed colloidal plastics) exist in the environment due to the degradation of macroplastic waste in terrestrial and aquatic environments. Transport and retention in simplified porous media has been well constrained and mechanistically described. However, we lack quantitative understanding and prediction of how colloidal plastics travel in dynamic geologic systems where they are influenced by a complex combination of variable fluid flow conditions and physical and chemical heterogeneity. As a result, there is a critical need for understanding dynamic colloidal plastic transport to determine the vulnerability of groundwater systems to contamination by these very small plastic particles. The objective of this project is to develop a better understanding of how colloidal plastics travel in the subsurface. The project will focus on acquiring laboratory measurements of the transport of plastics particles through representative geologic materials so that it will be possible to better quantify the potential risks of micro- and nano-plastic contamination in groundwater systems.

The work will emphasize hands-on experimental measurements and data analysis, with opportunities for more advanced modeling depending on student interest. The student will collaborate with other undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty to complete this project.

Qualifications Required None but experience with Excel and/or programing (any language) is a plus.
In-Person Tasks Run column experiments measuring the amount of plastic that is transported through different soils and geologic media from WI. Column or core preparation, possibly including laboratory rock coring.
Virtual / Remote Tasks analyze data
Approx. Work Hours / Week As many as desired
Keywords hydrogeology, groundwater, water resources, contaminants