Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Juanita Urban-Rich

Second Advisor

Ellen Douglas

Third Advisor

Alan Christian


Plastic is a global threat to the environment as it is a dominant type of debris in many environments and can adversely affect aquatic wildlife. It has been present for over 100 years, and its rate of production has significantly increased since WWII due to the rise in demand for durable and affordable plastic products. Plastic materials are used in everyday life, and when discarded, are easily transported by waterways. Plastic is a problem due to its persistence in the environment and its ability to act as a vector for toxic chemicals, either inherent to the plastic itself or as a vehicle for those already in aquatic systems. Organisms from zooplankton to large mammals have been found to ingest plastic, some in quantities that lead to injury or death. While much of the focus of microplastics has been on its occurrence in marine systems, we know it is present in freshwater system and that rivers can be a major avenue to transport plastic. The Charles River is a historically important river within Massachusetts and runs for 80 miles within the state through a variety of land uses. The objectives of this thesis were to determine the concentration of microplastics and microfibers along the Charles River at different sampling times, determine if adjacent land use or impervious coverage were related to microplastic and microfiber concentrations and then to estimate the potential flux of microparticles into Boston Harbor from the Charles River.


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