Micro-Plastics in the Hudson

An Emerging Threat

Microplastics (MPs) are small pieces of plastic smaller than 5 mm in length. In order to distinguish between the origin of these plastic particles, MPs are classified as either primary or secondary. Primary microplastics are plastics that are purposefully manufactured to be small - including microbeads, which are used in personal care products, and plastic pellets, which are used to construct larger plastic products. Secondary microplastics form as a result of the chemical or physical breakdown of larger plastics, often creating randomly-shaped fragments and films of plastic. Microfibers are also frequently encountered in marine and freshwater environments, and are formed during the washing of clothing made of synthetic textiles. There is an ever-expanding body of scientific literature studying the impacts that microplastics have on aquatic organisms and the organisms that consume them [including humans]. However, data on the presence of microplastics in large rivers - including the Hudson River - remains scarce. As such, our hope is that this citizen-science project can help fill a critical data gap, while also engaging the public who rely on the Hudson River for leisure and recreational activities, and helping protect the plethora of aquatic species who call the Hudson home.

About Columbia University's Sustainability Science Program:

The Sustainability Science Program at Columbia University is designed around the technical aspects of sustainability and incorporates three overarching goals: 1) to use observational and monitorial scientific methods to measure sustainability, 2) to analyze and model data to understand the environment, and 3) to respond to sustainability issues using scientific tools. The intention of the program is to integrate science into the decision-making process of organizations interested in moving towards sustainable solutions.

About Riverkeeper:

Riverkeeper is a non-profit organization that was first founded by concerned fishermen in 1966. Initially named the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, Riverkeeper began as an environmental organization advocating for the protection of essential Hudson River ecosystem services. Today, Riverkeeper has expanded its mission. Its legal team highlights violations of existing environmental laws on the Hudson and pushes for more protective regulations. The organization also helps to ensure clean drinking water for approximately nine million residents in New York City and across the Hudson Valley. Riverkeeper continues its fight to protect the Hudson River by holding polluters accountable, engaging communities, and finding sustainable solutions for infrastructure that improves and restores ecosystems.