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Dr Sparks

img sparksDr Conrad Sparks

Microplastic (MP) contamination in coastal areas and marine organisms is a growing field of research. However not much is known about MPs in coastal environments and invertebrates in southern Africa. The aim of my research is to assess sources, characteristics and concentrations of MPs in coastal areas and to investigate the health effects of MPs on invertebrates by identifying potential biomarkers of MP toxicity. Our research is done by field sampling and processing samples in a dedicated MPs lab at CPUT.

Current projects include the development/application of coastal litter/MP monitoring and sampling protocols, application of risk assessment to MPs and investigating the uptake of MPs by coastal invertebrates. Other research also includes the effects of contaminants (such as metals) that sorb onto MPs.

Other fields of research previously involved in were related to marine ecotoxicology, focusing on metal concentrations along the coast. I focused on metals in coastal water, sediment and invertebrates such as the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis. Part of my research also included antioxidant biomarkers in mussels.



Puccinelli, E., Porri, F., Altieri, K., Flynn, R., Little, H., Louw, T., Pattrick, P., Sparks, C., Tsanwani, M., Waardt, S.D., Walker, D., Fawcett, S. 2022. Coastal ecosystem services in South Africa’ s largest natural bay: The role of marine benthic filter feeders in mitigating pollution. Ecological Indicators 139, 108899.

Sparks, C., Awe, A., 2022. Concentrations and risk assessment of metals and microplastics from antifouling paint particles in the coastal sediment of a marina in Simon’s Town, South Africa. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 2022 1, 1–16.

Sparks C., Awe A., Maneveld J. 2021. Abundance and characteristics of microplastics in retail mussels from Cape Town, South Africa. Mar Pollut Bull 166:112186. https://doi: 166, 112186. 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2021.112186

Sparks, C., Immelman, S., 2020. Microplastics in offshore fish from the Agulhas Bank, South Africa. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 156, 111216.

Sparks, C. 2020. Microplastics in Mussels Along the Coast of Cape Town, South Africa. Bull. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 104, 423–431.

Joshua T.J.; R. Toefy; C. Sparks; S.P. Kirkman; T. Samaai. 2018. Macro-benthic invertebrate assemblages in the Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area (Kogelberg region, South Africa). Regional Studies in Marine Science, 22:1-8.

Sparks, C., Marnewick, Toefy, R. Snyman, R. J. and Odendaal, J. 2019. Baseline levels of antioxidant activities in Mytilus galloprovincialis along the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 140: 287-293.

Pfaff, M.C., Logston, R.C., Raemaekers, S.J.P.N., Hermes, J.C., Blamey, L.K., Cawthra, H.C., Colenbrander, D.R., Crawford, R.J.M., Day, E., du Plessis, N., Elwen, S.H., Fawcett, S.E., Jury, M.R., Karenyi, N., Kerwath, S.E., Kock, A.A., Krug, M., Lamberth, S.J., Omardien, A., Pitcher, G.C., Rautenbach, C., Robinson, T.B., Rouault, M., Ryan, P.G., Shillington, F.A., Sowman, M., Sparks, C., Turpie, J.K., van Niekerk, L., Waldron, H.N., Yeld, E.M., Kirkman, S.P., 2019. A synthesis of three decades of socio- ecological change in False Bay, South Africa: setting the scene for multidisciplinary research and management. Elem. Sci. Anth. 7, 32. elementa.367.

Sparks, C., Marnewick, J., Odendaal, J. and Snyman, R. 2018. Antioxidant responses in Mytilus galloprovincialis exposed to copper. Fresenius, 27(1): 488-502.

Sparks C., J. Odendaal, R. Toefy and R. Snyman. 2018. Metal concentrations in Mytilus galloprovincialis along the west coast of Cape Town, South Africa. Pollution Research, 37(4): 1-22.

Ockhuis, S., J.A. Huggett, G. Gouws & C. Sparks. 2017).The ‘suitcase hypothesis’: Can entrainment of meroplankton by eddies provide a pathway for gene flow between Madagascar and KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa?, African Journal of Marine Science, 39 (4): 435-451

Sparks, C. Odendaal, J and R Snyman. 2017. Metal concentrations in intertidal water and sediment along the west coast of the Cape Peninsula, Cape Town, South Africa. Water SA. 43: 17-24.

Sparks, C and Mullins, B. 2017. Metal concentrations in the Helderberg Marine Protected Area, False Bay, Cape Town. Research Journal of Environmental Toxicology, 11: 11-19. DOI: 10.3923/rjet.2017.11.19

Sparks, C., Odendaal, J. and Snyman, R. 2014. An analysis of historical Mussel Watch Programme data from the west coast of the Cape Peninsula, Cape Town. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 87: 374-380.

Christopher P. Lynam, Mark J. Gibbons, Bjørn E. Axelsen, Conrad A.J. Sparks, Janet Coetzee, Benjamin G. Heywood and Andrew S. Brierley. 2006. Jellyfish overtake fish in a heavily fished ecosystem. Current Biology: 16 (13): R492 – R493.

Sparks, C., A. S. Brierley, E. Buecher, D. Boyer, B. E. Axelsen & M. Gibbons. 2005. Submersible observations on the daytime vertical distribution of Aequorea aequorea (Forskål, 1775) off the west coast of southern Africa. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. U.K. 85: 519-522.

Andrew S. Brierley, Bjørn Eric Axelsen, David C. Boyer, Christopher P. Lynam, Carol A. Didcock, Helen J. Boyer, Conrad A. J. Sparks, Jennifer E. Purcell, and Mark J. Gibbons. 2004. Single target echo detections of jellyfish medusae. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 61: 383-393.

Sparks, C. and M. Gibbons. 2003. Hydromedusae off the Orange River mouth, southern Africa. Afr. J. marine Sci. 25: 373-376.

Brierley, A. S., B. E. Axelsen, E. Buecher, C. A. J. Sparks, H. Boyer & M. J. Gibbons. 2001. Acoustic observations of jellyfish in the Namibian Benguela. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 210: 55-66.

Buecher, E., C. A. J. Sparks, A. Brierley, H. E. Boyer & M. J. Gibbons. 2001. Biometry and size distribution of Chrysaora hysoscella (Cnidaria, Scyphozoa) and Aequorea aequorea (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa) off Namibia with some notes on their parasite Hyperia medusarum. Jnl. Plankton Res. 23(10): 1073-1080.

Sparks, C. A. J., E. Buecher, A. S. Brierley, B. E. Axelsen, H. Boyer, & M.J.Gibbons. 2001. Observations on the distribution, and relative abundance of Chrysaora hysoscella (Cnidaria, Scyphozoa) and Aequorea aequorea (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa) in the northern Benguela ecosystem. Hydrobiologia. 451: 275-286.