KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A return to in-person programming at the University of Tennessee Arboretum Society will be marked with a lecture from Dr. Martin Knoll about the dangers of microplastics in two major Tennessee rivers, as well as in Germany.

The program, “Microplastics in the Tennessee, Cumberland and Rhine rivers: Why we should care” is happening at 7 p.m. in the UT Arboretum Auditorium in Oak Ridge on Thursday, Sept. 29. The program is sponsored by the UT Arboretum Society and Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness planning.

A news release regarding the upcoming program states microplastic particles have been discovered in almost all environments on Earth, while recent research has identified several negative health impacts of these microplastics on aquatic life. Microplastics have also been found in the lungs and bloodstream of humans.

Dr. Martin Knoll is a professor of Geology and Hydrology and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Systems at the University of the South. Knoll’s presentation will focus on his research investigating the concentration and types of microplastics found in the Tennessee, Cumberland and Rhine rivers; and what might be done to reduce their numbers.

Knoll earned his BA degrees in German and Natural Resources at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. After studying at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, he earned an MS degree in Geology at Vanderbilt University and a PhD in Geology at the University of Texas at El Paso.

The Tennessee River is managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority, which has 13 locks along the 652-mile navigable stretch of the river. TVA established a navigation channel through the river and by 1945, it was completed with a system of dams and locks to keep it thriving in order to move commerce, goods and vessels. TVA states on its website that more than 28,000 barges carry 45-50 million tons of goods up and down the Tennessee River annually.

The navigable part of the Tennessee River begins a mile above Knoxville, Tenn. eventually joining with the Ohio River in Paducah, Ky. TVA states commercial navigation also extends into three major tributaries: 61 miles up the Clinch River, 29 miles up the Little Tennessee River and 22 miles up the Hiwassee River. (An additional 374 miles of channel too shallow to handle commercial traffic is marked by TVA for recreational boating).

The Cumberland River is managed by the Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns, operates and maintains 10 dams and navigation locks for it and its tributaries.

The Rhine river is located overseas and is considered a major European river. It flows from the Swiss Alps and follows some borders shared with Switzerland, Austria, Germany and the German-French border; also flowing through Germany into the Netherlands and empties into the North Sea.