Scolarship code CU6.24

Microplastics and climate change: potential threat to human health

  • Reference person
  • Host University/Institute
    Università degli Studi di Messina
  • Internship
  • Research Keywords
    Climate changes
    Ecosystem service
  • Reference ERCs
    LS8_5 Biological aspects of environmental change, including climate change
  • Reference SDGs
    GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
    GOAL 13: Climate Action
    GOAL 14: Life Below Water


Plastic waste pollution is now a widespread global problem. The inadequate management, the growing production and the exaggerated use of single-use plastics has generated a growing contamination of aquatic environments. The exposure of aquatic organisms to these substances is a problem not only at an ecological level, but also for fishing and the trade in fish products and consequently for humans. It is known that all contaminants (chemical and biological) that remain adhered to the surface of plastic polymers (plastisphere) cause more or less serious inflammatory and pathological reactions based on the nature of the contaminant itself. Furthermore, the situation could be further aggravated by global warming and the consequent acidification of the oceans. The present PhD project involves the use of bivalve molluscs as experimental models to understand: a) the effect of microplastics on the homeostasis of aquatic organisms in relation to temperature and pH variations b) the effects of temperature and pH variations on composition of the plastisphere c) the effect of the adhered contaminants d) the filtration rate and consequent uptake of microplastics in altered environmental conditions e) potential impact on the consumer in terms of the number of ingested plastic debris.

Suggested skills:

Basic knowledge on marine biology, ecology and zoologyMarine pollutionBiological lab experience

Research team and environment

Lab StREAM is a multidisciplinary researchers team.The scientific activity mainly focus on marine organisms biology and distribution studies. Special attention is addressed to extreme or stressed marine areas, characterized by particular anthropogenic or natural conditions: Strait of Messina, brackish lagoons, Eolian Islands, mediterranean coasts, Antarctic areas, hydrothermal vents, deep environments. Researches performed by Lab StREAM concern benthic and nektonic organisms, focusing on trophic web functioning, biodiversity and monitoring of marine protected areas. A special attention is addressed to the effects of different classes of pollutants (marine litter) on marine organisms.