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Current and Past Projects

The Vertical Distribution of Microplastic in the North Pacific Ocean (starting 2024)

In collaboration with a student, I will be investigating the vertical distribution of plastic pollution in the North Pacific Ocean column and how it relates to key physical variables in order to elucidate how plastic is transformed after it enters the ocean and how these variables affect its fate. 

The Impact of Plastic Pollution on the Biological Carbon Pump (starting 2024)

I will be sampling the settling flux of plastic pollution in the North Atlantic Ocean and determining its impact on the biological pump through laboratory experiments. This project will be done in collaboration with colleagues from Memorial University of Newfoundland, National Oceanography Centre, and the Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research. 

The Plastics & Climate Project (2023-present)

I am conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine the state of knowledge on the impact of plastic on climate change as part of The Plastics & Climate Project. The end products of this two-year project include a peer-reviewed journal article, research brief, report, and lay person articles to disseminate knowledge to governments and the public. 

Plastic is part of carbon cycle, Front. Mar. Sci.: Zhu (2021)

Editorial in The Conversation: Zhu (2021) 

Global Reservoirs of Plastic Pollution in the Marine Environment (2017-present)

I am quantifying major reservoirs of plastic pollution in the marine environment to help solve the puzzle of the fate of plastic pollution. Reservoirs of interest include coastlines, ocean column, ocean floor, and marine animals. This project is in conjunction with colleagues from Sea Education Association, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. 

The Global Plastic Cycle: Zhu (2021)

The ocean floor reservoir: Zhu et al. (2024)

Plastic Spiraling in River Networks (2021-present)

Together with colleagues from Loyola University Chicago, University of Toronto, and University of New Hampshire, I am investigating how plastic is transported through watersheds and what factors (storm intensity, imperviousness) affect its movement. We have sampled microplastic and macroplastic from various habitats in three watersheds across North America (Don River, North Branch Chicago River, and Ipswich River) and are analyzing the results.

NSF Grant Start Date: 10/01/2021, Awarded Amount: $418,107

Emissions Inventories of Plastic Pollution (2020-2024)

Akin to emissions inventories of greenhouse gases, I proposed a framework for measuring plastic pollution emissions from cities, provinces/states, and countries. This accounting tool will help the field of plastic pollution to inform effective mitigation, measure baseline emissions, set emission reduction targets, and track progress towards reaching targets.

Viewpoint about concept in ES&T: Zhu and Rochman (2022)

Framework and case study of Toronto in ES&T: Zhu et al. (2024)

Sources and Fate of Microplastic and Other Anthropogenic Microdebris in San Francisco Bay, California, USA (2017-2021)

I helped sampled the surface water, wastewater, stormwater, sediment, and fish in San Francisco Bay in 2017. My team and I analyzed the samples for microplastic and reported our findings to help inform policies to mitigate microplastic inputs into the Bay. Throughout this multi-year project, numerous studies were published that helped to advance the field of plastic pollution including:

Summary paper of our findings: Zhu et al. (2021) 

Raingarden as a mitigation approach: Werbowski et al. (2021) 

Recommendations for sampling surface water: Hung et al. (2010)

A novel microfiber identification method: Zhu et al. (2019)

Microplastics in SF Bay summary report: Sutton et al. (2019) 

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