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Lake Tahoe is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Known for its crystal-clear waters and panoramic vistas, it is a popular vacation spot for tourists seeking outdoor adventure. But because it is a popular vacation spot, the increase of tourists flocking to the area increases the likelihood that more plastic litter will end up in Lake Tahoe’s lakebed, threatening the aquatic environment of the lake as well as the surrounding area.
Monica Arienzo, an associate research professor in the Division of Hydrologic Sciences at the Desert Research Institute, and her team recently used attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FT-IR) to determine the polymer composition of plastic litter recovered by scuba divers from the lakebed of Lake Tahoe (1).
Arienzo earned her doctoral degree in Marine Geology and Geophysics from the University of Miami. Her research interests include developing a better understanding of the impact humans have had on the environment. She spent the beginning of her career studying caves in the Bahamas and ice cores from Antarctica before transitioning to studying microplastics found in snowy peaks, downstream lakes and rivers, and drinking water taps.
Spectroscopy spoke to Arienzo about the significance of her work and how spectroscopy can be used to help monitor plastic litter in the environment.
In this video interview, Arienzo answers the following questions:
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(1) Davidson, J.; Arienzo, M. M.; Harrold, Z.; West, C.; Bandala, E. R.; Easler, S.; Senft, K. Polymer Characterization of Submerged Plastic Litter from Lake Tahoe, United States. Appl. Spectrosc. 2023, ASAP. DOI: 10.1177/00037028231201174