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Faculty Mentor

Laura Eierman


Millions of tons of plastic end up in the oceans, causing many different hazards to marine organisms. I studied how eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) respond to plastic exposure by measuring differential expression of stress related genes in plastic-polluted water compared to control conditions. Ten juvenile oysters were kept in each of ten beakers. Five beakers contained clean saltwater at 17ppt. Five beakers contained plastic leachate made from the breakdown of plastic pieces in 17 ppt saltwater. After 2 weeks of exposure, treatment oysters were moved to clean 17ppt water for an additional two weeks of recovery time. Gill tissue was removed from two oysters per beaker weekly for 4 weeks. I used complementary DNA synthesized from extracted RNA to measure relative expression of genes involved in stress responses via quantitative PCR. I found that exposure to microplastics and plastic leachate caused differential expression in the stress-related genes of eastern oysters.

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Crassostrea virginica, Eastern Oysters, microplastics



Response of stress related genes in Eastern Oysters exposed to plastic leachate