Plastic prevalence and distribution in bird nests in Valparaiso, IN

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Laurie S. Eberhardt


Arts and Sciences


Biology, Ecology

ORCID Identifier(s)

Thomas Paul -, Laurie Eberhardt -

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-29-2021


Plastic pollution has become a focus of much concern in recent years, and many of the ecological and environmental consequences of plastic proliferation are still unknown. While much work has been done in recent years to understand plastic pollution in marine environments, the impacts of plastic pollution in terrestrial settings are still relatively unknown. In this study, local bird nests were collected and sorted based on material composition using qualitative and quantitative methods, such as where different materials were located in nests, and how much of the overall mass of nests was composed of each type of material. Nests were collected locally in Valparaiso, IN, from the university campus, Walmart, and other local suburban areas. Initial findings in this study on 25 nests of different species, including robin, cardinal, catbird, and oriole, seem to suggest that plastic materials are often present in bird nests, with many of those being types of plastic used for packaging or baggage material. Plastic and other anthropogenic materials found included grocery bag fragments, candy wrappers, netting, plastic string, foam packaging, landscaping cloth, and cigarette fragments. Furthermore, our findings indicate that plastic materials are used in nest construction for core structural purposes, often found in the bottom or sides of the main cup of the nest. Further research is needed to understand possible benefits and consequences of plastic use by birds in nest construction.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Thomas Paul is a senior biology major and chemistry minor in his third year working in biology research at Valparaiso University. Thomas plans to attend graduate school to study entomology. Ethan Peck is a senior biology major and chemistry minor also in his 4th year of biology research at Valparaiso University. Ethan plans to attend medical school after graduation. Addi Burke is a senior biology major with minors in both chemistry and engineering. This is her first year of research in biology, but her third year of research from Valparaiso University. Her first two years of research were completed in the biomedical engineering department. Addi plans to obtain her DNP of nurse-midwifery following graduation.

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