Alexandra Gulizia - AIMS@JCU

Alexandra Gulizia

College of Science and Engineering

Alexandra Gulizia

College of Science and Engineering
The preparation and characterisation of microplastics containing contaminants

Alex is currently undertaking her PhD (Natural and Physical Science) at JCU, Townsville after successfully completing her BSc Hons (Chemistry) in 2018. Alex's honours project investigated the formation of hydrogels using macroalgae biomass from aquaculture farms for applications in biotechnology and soil science. Alex completed her BSc (Chemistry and Ecology & Conservation Biology) at Monash University, Melbourne.

The preparation and characterisation of microplastics containing contaminants

2019 to 2022

Project Description

This project will aim to understand the leaching behaviors of plasticized microplastics exposed to different environmental conditions. Exposure conditions will include, but are not limited to polymer and plasticiser type, temperature, pH, salinity and UV exposure. They will also examine the formation of biofilms of the surface of microplastics, with the aim to also characterise changes in biofilm communities and subsequent polymer degradation under the aforementioned conditions.

Project Importance

There are increasing studies examining the toxicological effects of contaminated microplastics to marine and aquatic organisms. Results have indicated that plasticised microplastics are toxic both upon ingestion by organisms and when particles are diffused in the environment. However it remains unclear the pathway of exposure- i.e. the leaching behaviors of contaminates from microplastics. This research will help underpin the major exposure pathway to animals, and give more context to research undertaken by marine scientists and toxicologist.

Project Methods

a) controlled preparation of MP's containing contaminates of different w/t%
b) analytical techniques to characterise the microplastics (e.g. GPC, TGA, FTIR, GC/MS...)
c) direct leaching studies of contamianted microplastics
d) controlled formation and characterisation of biofilm composition and abundance using EM and genetic tools to identify microorganism communities.

Project Results

They hope to find the differential leaching/diffusion behaviors/rates of contamiantes from microplastics influenced by variable conditions. Also the differential degradation of polymers based on biofilm communities under variable conditions.

Current results suggests that leaching of plasticiser BPS occurs at different rates. They hypothesize that this is on account of differential interactions/bonding between the polymer matrix and DEHP.


Chemical ecology,
Controlled Environment,
Coral reefs,
Deep sea,