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Media opportunity: Images on social media platforms of animals tangled in masks, disposable gloves show how protective plastic gear has affected wildlife throughout the pandemic
The proliferation of single-use plastic products has risen sharply throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with masks, disposable gloves, testing kits and hygienic wipes being used widely to stem the spread of the disease.
Unfortunately, that personal protective equipment (PPE) can end up in the environment and pose a direct threat to wildlife that become entangled in it, ingest it or incorporate it into their nests.
Researchers at Dalhousie University who are examining the extent of the problem scanned social media platforms to see if they could use them as a tool to collect biologically relevant citizen science data and track rapidly emerging environmental challenges.
In a new paper, they recorded 114 incidents of animals being affected by PPE debris in 23 countries from April 2020 to December 2021, which exceeds the number of sightings previously reported in another study. A significant majority of those encounters -- 83 per cent -- involved birds. About 42 per cent were entanglements, while 40 per cent showed animals using the debris in their nests.
Justine Ammendolia, a PhD student in Dal's School for Resource and Environmental Studies, led the study and is available to discuss how social media platforms can help show how humans affect the natural world in situations like pandemics when researchers are grounded and citizen scientists are out making observations in their own backyards.
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Senior Research Reporter
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