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Serena Cunsolo

Serena Cunsolo
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Summary

I am a PhD researcher in the School of Civil Engineering and Surveying at the University of Portsmouth. I am a marine biologist with a specific interest in plastic pollution in the aquatic ecosystems. Over the past years, I have been investigating ocean plastic pollution and the presence of persistent organic pollutants absorbed onto the plastic.

My current research, as part of my PhD project, focuses on one of the major land-based sources of microplastic pollution: wastewater treatment plants. At present, there is limited knowledge about the fate of microplastics as they pass through the wastewater systems and I am interested in understanding their transport and removal within the treatment. My PhD project aims to quantify and evaluate the release of microplastics from sewage works, with a view to promoting innovative technologies to prevent microplastics from entering our oceans.

Biography

I graduated with an MSc in Marine Biology at University of Bologna, and a Master’s thesis in Aquatic Microbiology at University of Amsterdam within a research group investigating the impacts of global warming and high CO2 concentrations on a freshwater microbial species.

Thanks to my academic studies, I have gained knowledge on both fresh and saltwater ecosystems. I have subsequently worked on various conservation projects on the protection of endangered aquatic species. Throughout this time, I developed an increasing interest in environmental protection with a specific focus on plastic pollution in the aquatic ecosystems which I have been researching since 2015.

In 2015 I joined The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a Dutch organization whose goal is to develop advanced technologies to intercept and extract plastic litter from the oceans. At the beginning of my work, I went on a research cruise to collect and quantify surface plastic particles of different sizes in the so called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, in the North Pacific ocean, which represents the largest offshore accumulation zone of plastic. 

This experience made me realize about the potential dreadful impacts that land-based sources of microplastic pollution could have to our aquatic ecosystems, as the oceans represent one of the main final sinks for microplastic particles. This, together with the limited research data on microplastics present on land, triggered my interest in doing a PhD to start to fill in some knowledge gaps and investigate further one of the most relevant terrestrial pathways of microplastic emissions into the environment: wastewater treatment plants.

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