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Investigation of wildlife to evaluate effects of microplastics contamination on global ecosystem

【FOOD】 Watanabe Team

  • Overview

    The influx of plastic to the ocean is increasing, and if we do not take measures for it, our future threats to ecosystems may emerge. In this study, the biological effects of plastic waste on the ecology will be investigated in the aspects of physiology, toxicology, and immunology for mammals such as dolphins, birds such as penguins, reptiles such as sea turtles, etc. We invite researchers on marine plastics and micro plastics from all over the world for establishing a research base for the study of plastic contamination effects on the ecosystems based on their impacts on the wildlife.

  • Approaches

    The purpose of our team is to form a research base that accelerates global  plastic contamination research by conducting direct information exchange and opinion exchange on marine plastic and microplastic contamination with leading researchers. Previous studies have shown that various wildlife animals are affected by marine plastic contamination. By promoting information and opinion exchange activities with visiting researchers, we will carry out experiments and observations that are key to consider the marine plastic ecosystem’s impact. The biological effects of harmful chemicals contained in and adsorbed on plastics and plastics are qualitatively and quantitatively evaluated by the survey on the status of contamination of plastics with marine mammals sea birds, sea turtles, fish, etc,  from the viewpoint of physiology, immunology and toxicology under the concept of One Health, One World.

  • Plan

    In this research, we will invite the world’s leading experts from the fields of animal behavior sciences, marine biology and endocrinology, and conduct joint researches about marine plastic pollution based on each approach, write international co-authored papers. Focusing on the most sensitive and serious effects of plastic intake on the endocrine system, we form a network of researchers with Dr. David Crews, Andrea Gore and John Godwin. The stay of three foreign researchers is expected to increase the number of internationally coauthored papers. Furthermore, these three are the key persons in the current world of pollution research on animals, and their visit to Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology accelerate to set up a global center for marine plastic research. We will collect the plastics, blood, and organs from marine animals to analyze the pollution situation of current marine life.
    Dr. Takada and Dr. Mizukawa analyze chemical substances adsorbed to marine plastics using a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer.
    Dr. Izumi Watanabe analyzes the contamination of heavy metals attached to marine plastics.
    Dr. Gen Watanabe and Dr. Kobayashi conduct blood biochemical analysis to estimate the health status of the animals.
    Dr. Furuya performs RNAseq with a next-generation sequencer and RT-PCR using RNA from the blood and fecal samples from marine animals to detect viruses which infect the animals.
    If indigenous viruses that are commonly infected in the specimens are detected, virus sequences will be analyzed by using molecular phylogenetic methods for potential use of the sequences to estimate their migrating areas and plastic-rich areas. In addition, next-generation sequencing and RT-PCR of RNA extracted from spinal cord samples will be used to analyze the function of their central nervous system. From these analyses, we evaluate the biological effects of marine plastic on the animals.
    We will discuss  the results with Dr. Godwin, Dr. Gore, and Dr. Crews, and publish as international co-authored papers

Team Head

International Researcher(s)

John Godwin

Affiliation North Carolina State University (U.S.A.)
Division / Department Department of Biological Sciences
Position Professor
URL

https://godwin.wordpress.ncsu.edu

Andrea C. Gore

Affiliation The University of Texas (U.S.A.)
Division / Department Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology
Position Professor
URL

https://sites.utexas.edu/gore/

Members

Hideshige Takada  (Institute of Agriculture / Professor)
Izumi Watanabe  (Institute of Agriculture / Professor)
Tetsuya Furuya  (Institute of Agriculture / Associate Professor)
Kaoruko Mizukawa  (Institute of Agriculture /Assistant Professor)
Shohei Kobayashi  (Institute of Global Innovation Research / Assistant Professor)

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