Dr. Laura Revell

Dr. Laura Revell (Canterbury University, New Zealand) will be giving a talk titled 'Airborne microplastics: an emerging class of aerosol and implications for climate'

Dr Laura Revell, School of Physical and Chemical Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

Microplastics are ubiquitous contaminants in rivers, oceans and soils. In 2015 they were identified in atmospheric fallout collected in central Paris. Since then, dozens of studies have reported on the presence of airborne microplastics in a range of urban and remote regions. Atmospheric modelling shows that due to their small size and low density, microplastics are able to be transported over large distances through the atmosphere. Recent evidence suggests that, once deposited in the ocean, microplastics may be co-emitted with sea spray. Atmosphere-ocean coupling therefore plays a complex role in the ‘plastic cycle.’ As well as being damaging to ecosystems and harmful to human health when inhaled, our recent research shows that microplastics make a minor contribution to global radiative forcing.

I will discuss the current state of knowledge surrounding airborne microplastics, including what we know about their behaviour in the atmosphere, and what is not yet known. I will discuss challenges in microplastic sampling and analysis; particularly those which must be overcome to quantify the little-understood burden of atmospheric nanoplastics. I will also share lessons learned by my group in carrying out deposition sampling of airborne microplastics, along with our recent field work in remote parts of the Southern Hemisphere, and a foray into microplastics sampling in indoor air during one of the 2021 covid-19 lockdowns in New Zealand.