PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Researchers at the University of Rhode Island are getting some federal assistance for their efforts to better understand plastic pollution and the threat it poses to the ocean.

The university is set to receive $1 million in grant funding dedicated to studying how plastics spread through the environment as well as ways to reduce their harmful impact.

Plastic products are a leading type of marine pollution, devastating oceanic ecosystems and entangling large animals. Tiny particles released from textiles, packaging or discarded plastics, meanwhile, have been found in fish, birds and people.

Known as microplastics, these miniscule bits of pollution have been called a growing environmental threat that requires immediate attention.

URI already has a network of nearly 50 faculty members in different departments working on efforts to study and address plastic pollution.

“Unchecked plastics pollution is a threat to our health, our environment, and our economy,” said Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, who helped to get the funding approved.

Langevin and U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, announced the grant money last week.