Term of Award

Fall 2022

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Risa Cohen

Committee Member 1

John Carroll

Committee Member 2

Amanda White


Common aquatic contaminants such as microplastics (MPs), specifically microplastic fibers (MPFs), and heavy metal copper (Cu) are likely to exist in an environment simultaneously. Adsorption of metals to MP spheres and fragments has been found to occur, creating the possibility of MPs acting as a vector for heavy metal transport into organisms. The presence of both contaminants, MPFs and Cu, at the same time is likely, leaving marine bivalves susceptible to ingestion of these particles. It was hypothesized that MPFs influence Cu concentration in the ribbed marsh mussel (Geukensia demissa). Ribbed marsh mussels were collected at 10 sites along the coast of Georgia, USA to determine existing mussel MPF and Cu tissue concentrations in the field. Field tissue concentration of Cu suggested that the availability of MPFs varied between sites, and Cu concentrations were generally low and did not differ among sites. The average Cu and MPF concentrations from mussel tissue at each field site was used to determine which of the 10 sites contained the least contaminated mussels. Mussels were collected at the least contaminated site and used for a laboratory experiment where mussels were exposed to one of four treatments for 8 days: control, environmentally relevant Cu (18 μg L-1) and environmentally relevant MPF (509 fibers L-1), Cu only, or MPF only. Concentrations of MPF and Cu in mussel tissue following exposure indicate that the presence of MPFs increase Cu concentration within the mussel tissue. The findings from this study suggest that synergistic interactions occur between metals and MPFs, with potential adverse effects on bivalves and the organisms that rely on them in salt marsh ecosystems.

OCLC Number


Research Data and Supplementary Material


Available for download on Saturday, December 02, 2023