Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Abigail Renegar

Second Advisor

Dr. Bernhard Riegl


Microplastics (plastic particles < 5 mm) pose a serious threat to marine organisms, as researchers have documented such particles in the gut contents of numerous species. In particular, filter feeders are at risk of consuming microplastics because they may accidentally consume the particulates when feeding or they may prey on species that have already consumed them. The goals of this research were to evaluate the risks that different filter feeders face in regards to microplastic consumption through the analysis of the calculated Microplastic Consumption Rates for numerous species of filter feeders. Factors that could potentially affect this risk were also considered, including ocean basin, environment type, salinity, life stage, IUCN status, and filtration technique. Initial analysis showed that body size greatly impacted a species’ risk of microplastic consumption and further tests were completed to evaluate overall microplastic contamination for each species. Microplastic consumption and microplastic contamination values were evaluated and analyzed to determine which filter feeding species were most at risk of experiencing ecological effects from microplastic pollution. From a resource management perspective, this research highlights the filter feeding species most at risk, contributing to the development of more effective plastic waste management policies.