Researchers at Loyola University in Chicago are working on a project that would help us understand the pollution in the Chicago River and its far-reaching effects on the environment.
From The Chicago Tribune:
“(Timothy) Hoellein is spearheading an effort to examine trash in the river more carefully than anyone has before. Two years ago, he and his students collected, measured and cataloged all the garbage they could find along some stretches of the North Branch.But that was just a starting point. An assistant professor of biology at Loyola University Chicago, Hoellein ultimately wants to assess the health of the communities of tiny plants and animals that live on that litter and their potential impact on the river’s ecosystem.Called biofilms, these communities are essential to rivers and streams, playing multiple roles in a healthy food web. Microscopic worms and other tiny organisms graze there, and they in turn become food for bigger river-dwellers. The disappearance of a biofilm or a change in the balance of species could affect even the largest animals.Biofilms normally grow on natural materials like rocks, leaf litter and sunken logs — they are what makes river rocks slippery. Hoellein is interested in the idea that biofilms growing on trash are different in ways that could have a larger impact on the river.”