Dr Steve Summers is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the UK NERC project RealRiskNano
His expertise is microbiology and microbial processes focused on interactions between plastic debris and microbial communities. Within the RealRiskNano project he works under the supervision of Dr Tony Gutierrez at Heriot-Watt University.
Background and Research Interests
Dr. Summers’ research interests are focused on the effects of plastic debris and their persistence in the natural environment. In addition, Dr Summers has an interest in the interaction between plastic debris and the natural microbial communities which they are exposed to. Currently Dr Summers is working on the REALRISKNANO project, which aims to establish and clarify the risks that nanometer scale plastic debris may have in an aquatic environment. He will be utilising several methods in molecular ecology, such as Fluorescent in-situ Hybridisation (F.I.S.H) and MiSeq 16S rRNA analysis, to investigate how the microbial community reacts to nano-particles of plastic and if this has any subsequent ecotoxicological effect on higher organisms. He is a member of the Scottish Microplastic Research Group, which is a consortium of researchers from all over Scotland working together under the MASTS Marine Biodiversity, Function & Services Theme.
Prior to his current project, Dr Summers worked on a DEFRA funded project with the Open University (OU) which investigated the anthropogenic effects of plastic single use carrier bags in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. Furthermore, his work at the OU dealt with biodegradable plastics, both monitoring their degradation rates and any subsequent ecotoxicological effect to invertebrates such as Brine shrimp (Artemia franciscana), Lobsters (Homarus gammarus) and Water fleas (Daphnia magna). Previously, during his PhD at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the OU, Dr Summers investigated the microbial ecology of Icelandic volcanic environments and their effect on the breakdown of basalt rock and the subsequent CO2 sequestration from the atmosphere.
Dr Summers has worked and lived abroad previously (UK, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina) and maintains close collaborations with several universities. In addition to his own research he has mentored several students through their degrees, both undergraduate and postgraduate.