349. Magnetic resonance imaging for non-invasive measurement of plastic ingestion in marine wildlife
Monitoring plastic ingestion by marine wildlife is important for both characterizing the extent of plastic pollution in the environment and understanding its effect on species and ecosystems. Current methods to detect plastic in the digestive system of animals are slow and invasive, such that the number of animals that can be screened is limited. In this article, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is investigated as a possible technology to perform rapid, non-invasive detection of plastic ingestion. Standard MRI methods were able to directly measure one type of plastic in a fulmar stomach and another type was able to be indirectly detected. In addition to MRI, other standard nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) measurements were made. Different types of plastic were tested, and distinctive NMR signal characteristics were found in common for each type, allowing them to be distinguished from one another. The NMR results indicate specialized MRI sequences could be used to directly image several types of plastic. Although current commercial MRI technology is not suitable for field use, existing single-sided MRI research systems could be adapted for use outside the laboratory and become an important tool for future monitoring of wild animals.