Skip to main content

Postgraduate research project

Microplastics and carbon sequestration: identifying links and impacts

Fully funded (UK and international)
Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours degree View full entry requirements
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
Closing date

About the project

The downward sinking flux of marine organic particles (e.g. as marine snow and faecal pellets) removes large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the deep ocean where it is stored for centuries – a process known as the biological carbon pump (BCP). Amongst physical and biogeochemical processes that control the magnitude of the BCP, the interaction of sinking material with small plastic debris (microplastics) could potentially alter the quantity of carbon delivered to the abyss. At the same time, microbial growth on the surfaces of microplastics as well as their attachment to and entrainment into sinking material facilitates the transfer of these contaminants to depth and prevents their accumulation in the surface ocean. The interactions between microplastics and marine organic matter have been shown in the laboratory but is yet to be studied in situ. This project proposes a combination of direct observations resolved in both time and space, and in relation to environmental forcing (e.g. productivity, circulation patterns, atmospheric processes, etc.) which will allow for a better understanding of the nature and impacts of these interactions on the global carbon cycle and risks associated with plastic pollution.  

For full project details visit the Inspire project page.

Lead supervisor

  • Doctor Sue Hartman (National Oceanography Centre)


  • Doctor Katsia Pabortsava (National Oceanography Centre)
  • Doctor Peter Brown (National Oceanography Centre)
  • Doctor Phyllis Lam (University of Southampton)
  • Corinne Pebody (National Oceanography Centre)
  • Doctor Stefanie Rynders (National Oceanography Centre)
Back to top