Interns James Chhor and Margaret Stack conduct fieldwork on water quality in Blue Hill Bay. PHOTO COURTESY OF VERONICA YOUNG

Changing conditions in Blue Hill Bay in focus

BLUE HILL — Scientists studying environmental conditions in Blue Hill Bay presented their work Tuesday at the MERI Center for Environmental Studies.

Throughout the bay, surface waters contain microplastics, small plastic fragments that swimmers and marine species can easily swallow. Over the past six months, James Chhor, a University of California, Davis, graduate, has successfully mapped out the distribution of microplastics across the bay and points to possible sources that could be addressed.

Marine bivalves and fish mistake these tiny fragments of plastic for food and ingest them. Margaret Stack, an intern at MERI out of Boston College, has completed research that addresses the question “How much plastic can a mussel eat?” and the related question “How much plastic are people consuming in seafood?”

Through its graduate internship program, MERI promotes the professional development of young scientists that come to Blue Hill from universities across the United States and occasionally from Europe. Most of MERI’s interns go on to develop advanced degrees and successful careers in environmental health.

“Some years, we see a young scientist with outstanding capability who has a significant career path ahead,” said Susan Shaw, MERI founder and director. “This year, we were extremely fortunate to host two such individuals who are clearly going to make a difference in the world.”

With a bachelor’s degree in marine biology, Stack will stay on at MERI through spring 2018 as research assistant before pursuing doctoral studies at San Diego State College. Following his internship, Chhor, who holds a bachelor’s in wildlife, fish and conservation biology, also plans to pursue an advanced degree related to his work at MERI combining marine biology and climate change.


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