PhD Research Student

Project: The survival, persistence and ecology of microbial pathogens on the surfaces of environmental plastic pollution.

The most abundant form of litter in the environment is plastic, and the negative and detrimental consequences of plastic debris on fish, reptiles, birds and mammals are well documented. However, plastics can also provide a novel habitat capable of supporting diverse microbial communities, known as the Plastisphere. This Plastisphere has the potential to act as a significant vector of potentially pathogenic and harmful microorganisms, and because plastic debris can persist in the environment longer than natural substrates, e.g. feathers & wood, it offers an opportunity for the wider dissemination of infectious disease. The role of plastic debris for facilitating the persistence and dispersal of potentially pathogenic microorganisms (e.g. enteric bacteria and viruses) is an emerging and novel area of research, which is of international importance.


The aims of this project is to:

(i) quantify the survival dynamics of pathogenic bacteria on plastics in freshwater, marine and soil environments, and

(ii) determine the potential for plastic debris to disperse potentially pathogenic microorganisms within the environment.

About Me: In 2018, I graduated from the University of Plymouth with a BSc (Hons) in Marine Biology. I then went on to carry out a Masters in Applied Marine Science also at the University of Plymouth. Through this I became interested in the potential for environmental plastic pollution to act as potential vectors for pathogens and other chemicals. This PhD now combines my interests of microbiology and ecology with public health.

Contact: rebecca.metcalf@stir.ac.uk