Gayathri Jaikumar

Mussels, honey, milk: micro and nanoplastics are being found in an increasing number of products. Changemaker Challenge finalist Gayathri wants to study how these tiny plastic particles are dispersed through the marine ecosystem. To do that, she is starting at the basis of the food chain: water fleas!

Gayathri Jaikumar is studying Biology at Leiden University. She seeks to bridge the current knowledge gap in the research of micro and nanoplastics with her study. Because as yet, very little is known about the effect of these small particles on the micro-organisms that form the basis of our food chain. By studying the effect of the plastic particles on the digestion, health and reproduction of water fleas, Gayathri can provide an insight into this. She will research the effects of exposure to two types of microplastics in a laboratory. Namely: primary microplastics – these are components that are intentionally produced for use in cosmetics – and secondary microplastics; the small particles into which the plastic degrades.

Gayathri wants to use the Changemaker Challenge research grant to expand her study further with research into dragonfly nymphs, which consume water fleas. By investigating what happens to these larvae after they eat water fleas exposed to microplastics, Gayathri can ascertain whether microplastics can be transferred from one organism to another.