Plastics network

Monitoring microplastics in the environment

"I believe that we have a duty as research scientists to appropriately communicate the global efforts to understand plastic and microplastic pollution," says Amy Lusher, researcher of Environmental Contaminants at NIVA, and at the Department of Biological Sciences at UiB.

Amy Lusher
Marine biologist Amy Lusher investigates microplastics in the environment as a researcher at NIVA.

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Who are you?

I am a marine biologist with a focus on anthropogenic pollution, in particularly microplastics. I moved to Norway in 2017 to work at NIVA (Norwegian Institute for Water Research). My role as Key Researcher in the section of Environmental Contaminants allows me to contribute and/or manage several projects related to microplastics. These range from sources, occurrence, fate and impacts, to advising governing organisations on approaches to monitoring and working with citizen scientists, including schools, to understand microplastics in their local environment. I have a particular focus on the applicability to reproducible and validated methods which can support not only research but the development of monitoring plans. 

I completed my BSc and MRes at the University of Plymouth where I focused my BSc thesis on microplastics ingestion by commercial fish species under the guidance of Professor Richard Thompson, and my MRed investigated the consequences of plastic associated chemicals on gametogenesis in coastal bivalve species. My PhD (2012-2015) at the Galway-Mayo Institute for Technology focused on developing methods to understand the distribution and fate of microplastics in the North Atlantic.

Why do you do research on plastics?

I got involved with plastics research because I was concerned about the consequences of human activities on our coastal ecosystems. I am motivated to continue this research as we have only just touched the surface of this rapidly evolving environmental problem. The research community here in Norway, and internationally, is driven by like-minded individuals who are not only passionate about the subject area but also want to actively engage with one another (sometimes across-continents), the public and politicians. I believe that we have a duty as research scientists to appropriately communicate the global efforts to understand plastic and microplastic pollution.

Could you describe your ongoing projects?

One of my ongoing projects, EUROqCHARM, is an International Coordination and Support Action funded by the European Commission under the Horizon´s 2020 programme. Through this project, we are compiling the available information towards harmonised approaches for monitoring plastics in the environment. We are assessing state-of-the-art methods for reproducible analytical approaches, as well as currently recommended guidelines with an aim to present recommendations for future monitoring programmes and blue-prints for standardisation.

During the last year I have been heavily involved in the number of peer-review publications which assess the state of knowledge in microplastics research, whilst subsequently calling for increasing the quality and reproducibility of published literature. I have also contributed to monitoring guidelines, including those initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Government of Japan, and several chapters of the AMAP monitoring plan and guidelines on microplastics and litter in the entire Arctic ecosystem. I was formally involved in the Guidelines presented by GESAMP in 2019. 

Do you have any ongoing master or PhD projects?

Currently I supervise a PhD student at NTNU looking into the Microplastic cycles in the Northern Latitudes and the dispersal of microplastics in glacierized and formerly glaciated catchments and fjords. I am also Pillar Leader for the North Atlantic Microplastics Centre where our task is to assess how humans can be exposed to microplastics.