Two summers ago, Lisa Erdle cast a net from a research vessel on Lake Ontario, dissected the unlucky fish in the boat’s laboratory, and placed each of their guts carefully in jars to be frozen and sent back to her lab in Toronto.
“You need a little bit of a strong stomach,” Erdle said of the gory work, but these macabre parcels weren’t the most disturbing product of that trip. It’s what can’t be seen at first glance that is most alarming.
Back at her lab, University of Toronto Ph.D. candidate Erdle puts her carefully stored fish guts through a chemical digestion process that eats away all the organic matter. It’s then that, through the microscope, she can start to see the tell-tale multicolored signs.
Or, more accurately, microplastic – miniscule bits of plastic that are most effectively described using words like “teeny” and “itsy” but are poised to be the world’s next big regret.