Faculty Sponsor

Laurie S. Eberhardt


Arts and Sciences


Biology, Ecology

ORCID Identifier(s)

Thomas Paul - https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1512-7894, Laurie Eberhardt - https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0144-5821

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-1-2020


The presence of microfibers and microplastics in the environment is an ever-growing ecological concern. Accumulation of microplastics (plastic particles smaller than 5 mm) in aquatic environments and the subsequent exposure of these particles to organisms have been shown to have negative effects on aquatic biota. As an invasive, filter-feeding bivalve found across Indiana freshwater ecosystems, the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) serves as a good model organism for studying microplastics’ effects on physiological and behavioral functions of affected organisms. We have studied the impacts of microplastic exposure on a freshwater mollusk, the zebra mussel. We collected zebra mussels from Stone Lake, Indiana, in late fall of 2019. Individual zebra mussels were exposed to polypropylene rope fibers (concentration of rope fibers in the environment of one zebra mussel was ~400 microfibers per L) for 24-hour trials and assessed the effects by production of byssal threads, which are produced by the zebra mussel for anchorage and in response to predation threats. Results from a comparison between unexposed control mussels (n=70) and mussels exposed to rope fibers (n=70) revealed no significant difference in motility nor the number of byssal threads produced. Despite using microplastic concentrations that were higher than that found in the Great Lakes, a 24 hour exposure time may still not have been enough to significantly impact the animals. Continued research on the attachment strength of Dreissena polymorpha exposed to rope fibers will provide clearer evidence of any direct effect of these microplastics on the ecologically important mussel species.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Anna Crisman is a senior biology major and chemistry minor in her first year working with the zebra mussels. She is interested in ecology and conservation, and her goal is to attend graduate school in the future to do ecological research. Thomas Paul is a junior biology major and chemistry minor in his second year working with the zebra mussels. Thomas plans to attend graduate school to study entomology. Edward Kostelnik is a chemistry and biology double major with a minor in Spanish who has worked with microplastics and microfibers in freshwater systems for around 3 years with Dr. Julie Peller. His career goals are to work with the Great Lakes in aquatic or terrestrial based research.