Published: Jan. 30, 2019

The Opportunity: The CU Engineering Management Program, in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Studies, the CU Institute for Arctic & Alpine Research, and the Inland Ocean Coalition, is seeking two interns for the Spring semester, 2019. These positions will be responsible for conducting a literature review in the area of microplastic sampling methodologies as it pertains to freshwater sources such as rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and reservoirs.

The Motivation: The ecological devastation associated with pervasive plastic ocean pollution is becoming clearer every day. However, what is less well-known is the presence of plastic, and notably microplastics, in freshwater sources, far from any ocean. For example, a preliminary study by the Inland Ocean Coalition demonstrated that microplastics can be found even in Colorado, surprisingly in freshwater locations at very high elevations within the Rocky Mountains. This suggests that microplastics are not just an ocean phenomenon, but potentially endemic everywhere throughout the U.S. To further understand this issue, a team of researchers from CU Boulder has teamed up with the Colorado Chapter of the Inland Ocean Coalition to conduct a more extensive study on the presence of microplastics in Colorado’s waterways. The study first aims to define a robust sampling and characterization methodology based on the latest scientific techniques. It then plans on collecting and analyzing water samples from throughout Colorado, with the goal of understanding the extent of the microplastics present, the types of microplastics present, and potential sources. Moreover, the study is foundational in that the tools and techniques learned in this study will be used by other Chapters of the Inland Ocean Coalition as potential citizen science initiatives.

Job Description: The interns will be responsible for conducting a literature review on sampling methodologies associated with quantifying the magnitude of microplastics within inland waterways. This entails conducting a key word search, identifying, collecting and disseminating key scientific research papers, and contacting research centers and key investigators to determine current sampling techniques. The intern, working with their advisor and the research team, will then create a draft document that cohesively brings together the state-of-the art understanding of microplastics sampling, and identifying any opportunities for improvement.

Ideal Intern Characteristics: Senior or MS-degree seeking student in Engineering, Environmental Sciences or Environmental Studies. The student should have a strong research focus and be comfortable navigating the scientific literature. While the intern will have an advisor, work will be largely independent, requiring a high degree of self- motivation. Excellent written and presentation skills are also critical to the position.

Compensation: $15/hour.

Expectation: Each intern should expect to commit to 10 to 15 hours per week. One hour per week will be devoted to meeting with the project’s advisor, Michael Readey. Attendance at monthly team meetings is required.

Timeline: The literature review will begin as soon as candidates have been identified, with work ideally beginning February 11. It is anticipated the project will be completed by the end of the Spring semester.

Contact: If you’re interested, please send your resume and a cover letter describing your interest in microplastics pollution to Professor Michael Readey at Applications will be accepted through Thursday, January 31. Decisions will be made such that work can start on or about February 11.

For more information on the Inland Ocean Coalition, go to: