Map of Study site, Pilar Paraguay

Student Publishes Article on Research of Microplastic Content in Reptiles in Paraguay

Cullen Mackenzie, a first-year MS in Environmental Studies Conservative Biology student, had a paper accepted for publication in the highly-respected tropical ecology journal Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment (NNFE). His article, “Preliminary Study and First Evidence of Presence of Microplastics in Terrestrial Herpetofauna from Southwestern Paraguay,” arose from a tropical field internship where he studied microplastic content in reptiles.

“Microplastic pollution in our environment is a relatively new area of conservation research,” said Dr. Rachel K. Thiet, Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of Conservation Biology at Antioch University New England. “I’m thrilled that Cullen’s work has drawn international attention to this urgent global health and biodiversity issue.”

Microplastic pollution has become a worldwide threat and impacts various animal species that ingest them. However, apart from a few studies, very little is known about the extent of microplastic contamination regarding our terrestrial environment.

From November 2019 to March 2020, Mackenzie traveled to Pilar, Paraguay, for a tropical field internship with the organization Para La Tierra. Mackenzie worked with his advisor Varvara Vladmirova who helped him pre, during, and post fieldwork and is the second author of the paper. Their findings provided evidence that microplastic contamination is rife in environments and species that have not been previously tested for.

“I hope my study showcasing microplastic ingestion in Paraguayan herpetofauna will help contribute to our knowledge on this human-related issue,” said Mackenzie. “And with the aid of additional studies, push for more ecologically focused waste reduction practices.”

“Cullen’s work makes an important contribution to our understanding of human threats to biodiversity,” added Thiet.