Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type



College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program


Degree Name

Master of Science

Thesis Advisor

Cynthia Tant

Committee Member

Jennifer Schafer

Committee Member

Salvatore Blair


Microplastics, Freshwater, Fish guilds, South Carolina, Lake Wateree


Plastic pollution has become a global concern. Plastic pollution can be defined as macroplastic (> 2.5 cm), mesoplastic (2.5 cm to 5 mm), and microplastic (<5 mm). Microplastics are either manufactured for industrial use (primary microplastics) or are small degraded pieces of plastic from larger plastic items (secondary microplastics). Freshwater microplastics have been understudied compared to marine microplastics, but research has increased in recent years. Research has attempted to determine whether different feeding guilds of fishes were more prone to consume microplastics. In this study I examined if freshwater fishes (gizzard shad, blue catfish, white perch, and black crappie) from different feeding guilds accumulated microplastics in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and gill structures. I also wanted to determine if there was a relationship between microplastic concentrations among the different fishes. I found that microplastic concentrations differed among feeding guilds in GIT samples and gill samples, however weight had no relationship with microplastic concentrations except in gizzard shad gill samples. Mean microplastic concentrations in GIT samples ranged from 8.66 ± 3.63 SE microplastics per individual (white perch) to 52.30 ± 13.61 SE microplastics per individual (black crappie). Mean microplastic concentrations in gill samples ranged from 24.36 ± 6.82 SE microplastics per individual (blue catfish) to 69.66 ± 12.24 SE microplastics per individual (black crappie). A species had unexpectedly high numbers of microplastics in their gill structures. This suggests that further research needs to investigate whether morphological or physiological factors contribute to microplastic accumulation in freshwater fishes.