Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Plastic is pervasive in modern economies and ecosystems. Early research suggests freshwater fish commonly ingest microplastic (particles < 5 mm), which may influence fish digestive tissues, but no studies have examined historical patterns in microplastic consumption or rates of microplastic retention in fish. We measured microplastic in digestive tissue of specimens collected and preserved over the last century (Field Museum, Chicago). We selected Micropterus salmoides (largemouth bass), Notropis stramineus (sand shiner), Ictalurus punctatus (channel catfish), and Neogobius melanostomus (round goby) because each was well represented in the museum collection, with specimens from urban rivers. Specimens from 1900-2018 showed increases in microplastic concentration from the 1950's to present. in a second project, we collected round gobies from Lake Michigan in Chicago to conduct feeding experiments to measure microplastic ingestion and retention rates. the majority of microplastic was excreted within 72 hours of ingestion. Results will aid in understanding ecological interactions of microplastic and freshwater fish, informing further work on the movement of microplastic in aquatic food webs.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.