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Assessment of the abundance and type of microplastics in sediments from the Pacific Crest Trail

Tipling, Gwen
Gallardo-Owens, Dulce
Hess, Kendra
McGruer, Tori
Gustavus, Macy
Cowger, Win
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a long-distance hiking trail that spans 2653 miles. The trail starts near the border with Mexico, runs along the Sierra Nevada mountains, passes through the States of California, Oregon, Washington and spans all the way to British Columbia, Canada. The PCT receives hundreds of hikers, and although in general, people that hike the PCT are environmentally mindful, human presence can leave plastic waste in the trail. This waste can break down into microplastics, particles with a size between 5 millimeters and 1 micrometer. Microplastics can accumulate in sediments across the trail with unknown effects on the soil environment. For that purpose, sediment samples that have been collected along the entire length of the trail in collaboration Moore Institute for Plastic Pollution Research. Our current work has been focused on processing the soil samples with elutriation, chemical digestion, and density separation. Our future work will be focused on analyzing the abundance and type of MPs in samples with fluorescence microscopy, Attenuated Total Reflectance - Fourier Transformed Infrared Microscopy (ATR-FTIR), and pyrolysis Gas Chromatography (py-GC-MS). Our work will help to better understand the abundance of MPs trails associated with hiking activity in the PCT.