Mount Douglas Secondary grad Margaret Krawciw won a national award for her study on the relationship between microplastics and algae. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)

Mount Douglas Secondary grad Margaret Krawciw won a national award for her study on the relationship between microplastics and algae. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)

Saanich high schooler earns national award for study on microplastics’ impact on algae

Young scientist Margaret Krawciw aims to understand this relationship to improve plastic crisis

Margaret Krawciw, who just graduated from Mount Douglas Secondary, won silver at the Canada-wide science fair for her project on interactions between algae and microplastics.

This project aimed to uncover how growth cycles in marine algae are impacted when introduced to microplastics.

Krawciw grew up on Vancouver Island and said she has always been passionate about the ocean and science. Her interest in this particular topic sparked when she and another student began a group called the Ocean’s Protection and Plastic Reduction group at their school.

“As part of that, I discovered that microplastics are one of the biggest issues in the ocean because once it breaks down to that size, it becomes very hard to remove.”

She discovered there were few studies about the relation between algae and microplastics and took this on largely because algae are at the base of every food chain.

Krawciw described a concept known as biomagnification – it’s the idea that microplastics increase and worsen at every level of the food chain, similar to mercury and other toxins found in the ocean.

Plastics are broken down even further in the ocean by saltwater, UV light, wave action and more, Krawciw explained.

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After a trip to one of Tofino’s most plastic-ridden beaches, she decided it would be important to understand how plastic is affecting local algae in Greater Victoria.

She discovered that although some plastics were killing certain forms of algae, other types of algae were binding to the plastics, causing an overgrowth. Krawciw found a disruption in the delicate balance of the ecosystem negatively impacts the creatures feeding on the algae, because nutrients are significantly lessened.

Krawciw plans to continue on as a microbiology student at the University of Victoria and based on her studies, she adamantly encourages everyone to make small changes in their everyday lives to lessen their waste impact.

“Each person has a place where they can reduce their impact, a hundred small changes have a much larger impact than trying to find one big thing,” she said.

For more information on the project, visit bit.ly/3w3SuaA.


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