Collaborative Research on Microplastics and Nanoplastics in Brazil: A Journey of International Cooperation
In May 2023, Imptox scientist Andreja Rajkovic from Ghent University, embarked on an exciting visit to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). The purpose of the visit was to participate in various events and establish potential collaborations between Imptox, CUSP and Brazilian research teams in the field of micro- and nanoplastics research – a topic of great interest and importance in Brazil. This article provides an overview of Prof. Rajkovic's journey, highlighting the events attended, collaborative initiatives established, and the future prospects of international cooperation in the field.
Internacionaliza UFRJ2030: A Gateway to Collaboration
Andreja Rajkovic had the privilege of participating in Internacionaliza UFRJ2030, a major internationalization event organized by UFRJ and the Research Funding Agency of the State of Rio de Janeiro. This event served as a platform for fostering cooperation and research through international networking and joint research initiatives. Guided by Prof. Carlos Conte, Rajkovic engaged in numerous thematic meetings with research teams specializing in food/environment/health sciences. Read here for more information on Prof. Rajkovik’s participation at UFRJ.
Focus on Microplastics and Nanoplastics
During the meetings, the discussions revolved around the pressing issue of microplastics (MPs) and nanoplastics. Brazil hosts a vibrant research community actively working on this topic, with ongoing initiatives and projects. To harness their collective expertise, two concrete action plans were formulated.
Investigating MPs in Guanabara Bay
Guanabara Bay, located in Rio de Janeiro, encompassing an area of 412 square kilometers, is of immense ecological significance. Rajkovic and the Brazilian research teams envision investigating the presence of microplastics in the bay, particularly on its western and eastern shores. By partnering on this research, both Imptox and Brazilian projects could contribute to the understanding and mitigation of MP pollution.
Exploring MPs in Amazonian Waters
The team also identified the Amazonian waters and their associated fish as an important area of study. Recognizing the global importance of the Amazon rainforest and its fragile ecosystem, Rajkovic and the Brazilian counterparts will seek to establish joint PhD programs related to a series of research topics within the Imptox project. This collaboration would not only advance research but also internationalize efforts in this field.
Impressive Collaborative Efforts
During the visit, the researchers at UFRJ recognized the significant efforts put forth by CUSP and the Horizon 2020 program. The magnitude of budgets and the collaborative nature of these initiatives left a positive impression on the team. These fruitful discussions and collaborations extended beyond UFRJ to include prominent research funding organizations like FAPERJ (Research Support Foundation of the State of Rio de Janeiro) and FAPESP (São Paulo Research Foundation). Future visits, including Prof. Rajkovik’s participation at the 32nd Brazilian Congress on Microbiology in October this year, will explore the potential funding opportunities for MNP research through these institutions.
Future Prospects and Global Efforts
Looking ahead, the research teams shared the idea of an MNP-related conference in collaboration with the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) and the International Commission on Food Microbiology and Hygiene (ICFMH) during the lifetime of Imptox and CUSP. This collaborative effort should aim to include the topic of microplastics and nanoplastics in major food safety conferences, such as FoodMicro2024 in Burgos, Spain, and IAFP2024 in Long Beach, California, USA. By engaging a broader audience, global efforts toward addressing microplastic pollution in the food system can be enhanced.
Prof. Rajkovic's talks and conferences have garnered attention from the Brazilian media, with notable coverage in Valor Econômico, Brazil's esteemed and largest financial newspaper. This recognition further highlights the significance of their research and the impact it has on the scientific community and broader society.