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An examination of plastic pollution in Lake Superior and the economic history of Nigeria were research projects presented by University of Wisconsin-Superior students at the UW System Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity at UW-Parkside on April 27.
The 12th annual symposium gives undergraduate students from University of Wisconsin institutions an opportunity to showcase their research, scholarly work and creative activity in all fields of study and majors. Students can give oral presentations, show posters, present original artwork, or give a performance in dance, music, poetry reading and theatre.
UW-Superior students presented two research projects at the symposium.
Studying plastic pollution
Joe Ripley, a chemistry major from Iron River, Wis., and Amar Gurung, a biology and chemistry major from Kathmandu, Nepal, presented a research poster titled "Plastics: The Latest Invasive Synthetic 'Species' Disturbing Lake Superior."
Working with Dr. Lorena Rios-Mendoza, assistant professor of chemistry, Ripley and Gurung identified types of plastic washed ashore in the Twin Ports. They then analyzed and classified their samples using infrared spectroscopy to determine which types of plastic would sink and which would float and could be mistaken by fish as food.
Bad fish food
"Another aspect that she (Rios-Mendoza) wants to look into is the accumulation of pollutants by plastics, mainly endocrine disruptors," Ripley said. "Taking it further, we want to see if the pollutants get transferred to fish when they eat plastic debris, and on to us when we eat the fish."
Gurung said the research is important "because it gives us a lot of information on how much of these plastic floaters is out there, which will eventually cause significant harm to fish population and human population around Lake Superior.
Understanding Nigeria's economy
Amarachi Okorigbo, an economics and finance major from Nigeria, presented a research poster titled "Economic growth and development in pre-colonial and post-colonial Nigeria."
Nigeria, the most heavily populated country in Africa, was a British colony for a century before gaining independence in 1960. Now many Nigerians believe the British departure left their country economically disadvantaged and wish they could regain its status as a colony. Okorigbo's research examines the differences in economic growth and standards of living in Nigeria before and after independence.
"I choose this topic because I am from Nigeria," Okorigbo said, "and I want to understand the economic progress of my country after the departure of the British."
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