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Professor emerita co-authors study on effects of plastic on bacteria

Professor emerita Lisa Moore

Lisa Moore, professor emerita of biology at the University of Southern Maine (USM) has co-authored a study on the effects of plastic leachate exposure on marine Prochlorococcus, widely considered the most abundant photosynthetic organism on Earth.

The study, “Plastic leachates impair growth and oxygen production in Prochlorococcus, the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria,” published earlier this month in the journal Communications Biology, found that chemicals that leach out from common plastic items impair Prochlorococcus growth and photosynthetic capacity.

According to the study, Prochlorococcus are vital contributors to global primary production and carbon cycling.

The study further highlighted the dangers of plastic debris, both economically and environmentally.

According to the authors, plastic debris has been estimated to cost $13 billion in economic damage to marine ecosystems each year.

"This pollution can leach a variety of chemical additives into marine environments, but unlike the threats posed by animals ingesting or getting entangled in plastic debris the threat these leachates pose to marine life has received relatively little attention," Moore told Science Daily.

In addition to Science Daily, the study was covered by Wired, Popular Science and Fox News.

Moore retired from USM in 2018, but holds an adjunct position in the Department of Biological Sciences. She currently works as a research fellow in the Paulsen Laboratory at the Department of Molecular Sciences, Macquarie University in Australia.