Carolin Müller on the Meteor (Photo: Werner Ekau, ZMT)

29/11/2022 | Dr. Carolin Müller, marine biologist at the ZMT, has been nominated as one of ten candidates for the Leibniz Association's Dissertation Award. For her excellent PhD thesis in the Fisheries Biology Group, she investigated the effects of microplastic ingestion on growth and survival of juvenile fish using a combination of novel feeding experiments in the laboratory and an integrated field research approach.

She was able to demonstrate the ingestion of microplastic fragments and fibers in juvenile sea bream - but deterioration in condition was only found in fish that had eaten very large amounts of plastic and little natural food at the same time. She observed significant differences in food and microplastic intake between individual juvenile fish.

"In order to be able to protect living marine resources and use them sustainably, science must go beyond the mere quantification of plastic particles in the organism and dedicate itself to researching the influencing factors as well as the physiological effects of this anthropogenic pollutant on different species and life stages," says Carolin Müller.

However, despite intensive research, especially over the past two decades, too little is still known about how plastic affects fish, particularly the sensitive larvae and juveniles that are the bottleneck in fish population development. Ultimately, the degradation of early life stages through the interplay of pollution, climate change, and habitat destruction could have significant impacts on recruitment and population dynamics of coastal fish populations.

The Leibniz Dissertation Award

The Dissertation Award of the Leibniz Association is awarded annually for the best doctoral theses from Leibniz institutes in the categories "Humanities and Social Sciences" and "Natural and Technical Sciences." In addition to an outstanding valuation, the award-winning theses must be distinguished by interdisciplinary significance, application relevance and publication in specialist journals or presentations at specialist conferences. The prize is endowed with 5,000 euros each. The prize winners are selected by the eleven-member Leibniz Prize Jury, which consists of public figures and leading scientists and is chaired by Leibniz President Martina Brockmeier. Candidates are nominated by the scientific sections of the Leibniz Association.