REU Success Story: Harbria Gardner

Harbria Gardner, an environmental science student at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU), joined FIU’s Coastal Ecosystems REU Site cohort of 2019 to study the presence of microplastics – a type of pollution that results from debris that has broken down into small pieces.

Student standing in a laboratory, holding a bottle and pouring its substance to another container.

Mentored by Piero Gardinali and CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment graduate students Steven Landeweer and Brain Ng, Gardner collected water samples throughout South Florida to develop a method using fluorescent staining and distinguish the diverse types of microplastics.

Detecting these microplastics is vital. They are hazardous to marine ecosystems since they may contain toxic chemicals and bioaccumulate up food chains. At the end of her research experience, Gardner was able to conclude the effectiveness of using fluorescence to detect and quantify microplastics as well as contribute to future work on water contamination.

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree and with the help of the program, Gardner plans to continue her research in graduate school.

The Coastal Ecosystems Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site program is a 10-week paid summer research fellowship under FIU’s Institute of Environment. For more information about the REU, please visit the program website.