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Channel Islands Harbor jellyfish helping scientists understand microplastics

Last week, many flocked to Channel Islands Harbor to witness a jellyfish invasion. The incredible sighting triggered an interest to students and professors at CSUCI to continue their study with microplastics.

These tiny moon jellies can help researchers understand a major environmental threat. The team went to the harbor and collected ten moon jellies and brought them back to the lab.

“We actually froze the jellies,” said Clare Steele, the Environmental Studies assisant professor at CSUCI. “The easiest way to look for microplastics is to digest the tissue of the jellies so we use the base of potassium hydroxide to digest the tissue and we actually filtered what was left over any particles or fibers of plastic that might be ingested by the jellies.”

The results? Plastic was found in all ten of the jellyfish collected.

Microplastics are extremely tiny pieces of plastic debris leftover after things like straws breakdown in ocean water.

Professors at Channel Islands say that people should be concerned, because it could effect them in the long run.

“Part of the problem is that we know that plastic is getting into coastal food webs,” said Steele. “Small organisms, like jellies or sand crabs are eating them and then they are getting into larger organisms like fishes, and ultimately they are getting into things that we eat, things like muscles and we are ingesting them and so we should be concerned.”

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