The tip of the iceberg: what we don’t know about plastic

Nearly 13 million tonnes of plastic finds its way into our marine environment each year and even remote Antarctic waters can’t escape it. A large portion of this pollution is from microplastics, plastic particles measuring less than five millimetres. 

Even more chilling is the fact that we know relatively little about the ecological effects of microplastics. While ingestion of plastic particles is a known problem for larger organisms, what about the primary producers that are the foundation of our marine ecosystems? Such organisms, like microalgae and cyanobacteria, are essential for carbon cycling and keeping our marine systems healthy and productive.

So what happens if they can’t do their job?Join Julie as she discusses the impact of microplastics on essential ecological processes and ponders how to change our society’s relationship with plastic.


Postdoctoral research fellow Dr Julie Hope is a sediment ecologist and eco-hydrologist at the University of Auckland. Her research is focused on the small microscopic algae that live on the seafloor and the inconspicuous animals that are essential for carbon and nutrient cycling, and help keep our coastal waters clean and healthy.

Julie works in the seafloor ecology lab group at the Institute of Marine Science and has recently won a prestigious Royal Society New Zealand Marsden fast start grant. Through her work, Julie seeks to investigate the impact of microplastics and other stressors on soft sediment ecological processes and functions and how this ultimately influences the benefits we derive from these systems as a society.

6:30pm @The Oak Room, 17 Drake Street, Auckland 1010

Also speaking at this location at 8:00pm is Olaf Diegel.