UC Davis Researchers Study Microplastics in Tahoe

microplastics in water

UC Davis Researchers Study Microplastics in Tahoe

Article from News 4

UC Davis researchers began a new study this summer. They're studying the effects of microplastics in Lake Tahoe.

UC Davis tested beaches all around the lake and found plastic in almost every sample. A microplastic is a very tiny piece of plastic, smaller than a grain of rice.

"Wastewater is the number one input to most systems. Since we don't have that in lake Tahoe we think those are coming from litter not disposed properly. Plastic bottles or bags that come in the lake,” said UC Davis researcher Katie Senft.

The researchers are receiving funding from Nevada Division of Environmental Protection to look where these microplastics are going and what kind of impact they're having on the ecosystem.

Because once these microplastics arrive in Tahoe, they're not coming out unless someone removes them. These researchers are also studying what parts of the lake are most polluted and whether these microplastics are sinking to the bottom of the lake or staying near the surface, as different pieces of plastic have different densities. Their goal is to ultimately eliminate these microplastics both in the sand and the water.

"We’re going to look at surface water, different depths of water going all the way down to the bottom, deep water sediments, municipal waters, and we're also going to look at Asian clam and Kokanee salmon to see if they're consuming any plastics,” continued Senft.

These could have implications for aquatic life. Asian clams and Kokanee salmon are known to eat microplastics. They’re a good gauge of how much pollution is in a lake.

The good news is that we can do something about this. We can eliminate as much plastic as we can especially when visiting Tahoe. Using a reusable water bottle, recycling, and leaving no trace when we leave, can go a long way.

The researchers will continue this project through the middle of next year. By then other Tahoe organizations plan on diving down to the bottom of the lake to remove some of these microplastics.

UC Davis researchers Katie Senft and Dr. Jenessa Gjeltema will host a Zoom seminar on Thursday November 12 at noon. They'll give updates about their latest research. To register click the link below: 


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