We pulled aside Annabelle Tierney to discuss her thesis research addressing plastic pollution in the marine environment. Annabelle is a third-year graduate student in marine biology from Australia with aspirations of going into conservation work.
Q) Can you tell me about your research?
Annabelle: For my thesis research I am analyzing the distribution and abundance of microplastics in sediments and brown and white shrimp from estuaries along the South Carolina coast. This involves separating/removing potential microplastics from the sediment and shrimp via various laboratory techniques and then assessing them microscopically.
Q) Why do you think it is important?
Annabelle: This research is important because plastic is now ubiquitous in the world and
sadly, as a result, the environment. Little is known about the fate, transportation, or impacts microplastics have on the environment and its organisms. To address the ever-increasing problem of plastic pollution, this initial preliminary research is critical.
Q) What is your favorite thing about your project?
Annabelle: My favorite part of my project is the new experiences and opportunities it has presented me with. I have really enjoyed learning all the new laboratory and analysis techniques needed for microplastic research, as well as using a variety of equipment I otherwise never would have learned to use! I have also been able to do a lot of field work when collecting samples which has been super fun and cool!
Q) How did you become interested in marine biology?
Annabelle: I originally wanted to be a zoologist growing up, but I became more interested in the marine field after visiting the Great Barrier Reef! I have been lucky enough to snorkel and scuba dive on the reef multiple times throughout my life, and these experiences are what sparked my love for all things ocean!
Q) What do you plan to do after you finish this program?
Annabelle: After I finish the program, I hope to move back to Australia and work for a marine or environmental science-related company. I am interested in conservation and combating climate change, so I think working for a non-profit or an environmental consulting agency is the direction I would like to follow.
Q) What do you enjoy outside of your research?
Annabelle: I mostly love being outdoors! I enjoy going to the beach, surfing, roller skating, pickleball (a new hobby!!), sewing, and enjoying a good brew or two in my free time.
- Be on the lookout because she might just be the one to crack the code on climate change! Thank you to Annabelle and the Marine Biology graduate program for the differences they make every day.
Student Spotlight Featuring Annabelle Tierney