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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: TRANSPLAS – Developing a Transnational Plastics Network

Currently Active: 

Our understanding of plastic and its deleterious environmental effects is growing and there is an urgent international need to address this problem. This project aims to build new relationships between specialists on plastics pollution from three Worldwide Universities Network members (University of Southampton, University of Western Australia, and Zhejiang University), to develop a core Transnational Plastics Network (TransPlas) – this will share data, resources, and standardised methodologies to investigate the transfer of marine plastics from terrestrial to marine environments, their ecological and human health effects, and potential control measures.

TRANSPLAS is an interdisciplinary partnership project focused on marine plastics contamination, which brings together complementary expert researchers from the University of Southampton, University of Western Australia and Zhejiang University. These researchers form the core of a Transnational Plastics Network (TransPlas), supported by ongoing PhD and project student exchange and joint research projects. The network’s over-arching research aims are to:

(a)   explore the mechanisms that drive the movement of plastics, and particularly highly environmentally-problematic microplastics (MPs), from terrestrial to marine environments,

(b)   assess the potential impact of plastics on human and environmental health, and

(c)   evaluate possible environmental protection, management or clean-up strategies.

The project co-ordinates research on plastics in three different geographic, climatic and cultural settings (southern UK, east China, and SW Australia) across a variety of environments (heavily urbanised to pristine environments), using standardised, comparable, methodologies. This includes joint field campaigns to share and transfer field methods and skills, and collect samples for benchmark publications comparing particularly microplastics and their impacts and management methods, on three contrasting coastlines. An important focus of the project is also to exchange early career researchers and students, and develop joint on-line teaching and training materials, to train the next generation of scientists in this key emerging area of international concern.

Funding provider: Southampton University Global Research Initiator Scheme

Funding dates: September 2018 onwards


Electron microscope image of plastic microfiber (centre) in a filtered estuarine water sample from Southampton Water, UK, with suspended sediment particles (background) and estuarine plankton (diatoms, foreground). Source: Zachary T. Anderson, Andrew B. Cundy, Ian W. Croudace, Phillip E. Warwick, Omar Celis-Hernandez & Jessica L. Stead (2018) A rapid method for assessing the accumulation of microplastics in the sea surface microlayer (SML) of estuarine systems. Scientific Reports, 8:9428, DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-27612-w.


Transplas 2

Plastic debris along the River Itchen, Southampton, UK.







Transplas 3

Members of the TRANSPLAS team, Mayflower Park (microplastic field sampling site), Southampton, December 2019. 






Other UoS Group

SMMI Marine Plastics Group

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