NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

Leave a comment

California Students Present at Ocean Plastics Pollution Summit

By: Sherry Lippiatt

An amazing thing happened at the Monterey Bay Aquarium this spring.

In the final piece of a NOAA Marine Debris Program and Monterey Bay Aquarium effort, students gathered to present their innovative year-long projects on reducing the amount of plastic that enters the ocean.

This talented collection of students reached 19,605 people and brought even more results from projects at schools across the region:

Quantifying Action Project Impact

Quantifying Action Project Impact

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Leave a comment

Not Your Average Homework: High School Students Help Clean Up Tsunami Debris in Alaska

By Margot O’Connell, Guest Blogger

Students from Pacific High School in Sitka, Alaska have teamed up with the marine debris crew at the Sitka Sound Science Center to work as part of our NOAA tsunami marine debris community cleanup project. During their student orientation camping trip in September, we took them out to a beach on Biorka Island near Sitka, where they surveyed the shoreline using the NOAA marine debris protocol and cleaned up everything that they found.

The people of Japan experienced a great human tragedy, and in a way, many of the students at this alternative high school have found that picking up tsunami debris is a metaphor for their own lives. They have faced challenges such as homelessness, family problems, addiction, and the death of a fellow student this year. Basically, they’re more than familiar with the concept of “picking up the pieces” and are using this experience as basis for understanding the magnitude of Japan’s tragedy.

The students spent the rest of their camping trip discussing what that they found and what the tsunami meant for the people of Japan, as well as how the aftermath of the tsunami debris is affecting the rest of the world (in addition to the usual talk of homework and plans for the coming year).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The trip was a great success, and the kids from Pacific High decided that they didn’t want to stop there. They are continuing to work with the Sitka Sound Science Center and plan on doing another cleanup next September and comparing their results. With the help of their art teacher Heather Bauscher, they have also designed and built an art installation made out of the debris they collected to adorn the halls of their brand new school building. The installation pays tribute to the victims of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

Lisa Busch, the director of SSSC, will help them put together a radio segment about the work that they have done, which will air on Alaska Public Radio. The project has been an amazing experience so far for both the students and the Sitka Sound Science Center crew. We look forward to seeing all the great work that these kids will do over the coming year!

Margot O’Connell is the Sitka Sound Science Center’s marine debris coordinator.

Sitka Sound Science Center Marine Debris Coordinator. – See more at:


Congratulations, 2014 Art Contest Winners

We are proud to present the winners of our 2014 Keep the Sea Free of Debris! art contest. These 13 works of art, which we chose from hundreds of submissions, will be featured in our 2015 Marine Debris Calendar later this year.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Each year, the NOAA Marine Debris Program holds the Keep the Sea Free of Debris! art contest to help raise awareness among K-8 students about one of the most significant problems our oceans face today. The resulting calendar, with the winning artwork, will help remind us every day how important it is for us to be responsible stewards of the ocean.

Thank you to all the students and schools that participated in this year’s contest!


Gyre: The Plastic Ocean, now on exhibit

By: Asma Mahdi

Gyre: The Plastic Ocean is now on exhibit at the Anchorage Museum. It features debris from a 2013 scientific expedition to study marine debris in Alaska and debris artifacts from across the globe.  The exhibition will run through Sept. 6, 2014. Take a peek at some of the pieces on display at the museum:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Alaska’s Gyre Exhibit Opens This Weekend

By: Asma Mahdi

Gyre: The Plastic Ocean, an innovative and hands-on exhibit on marine debris, opens this weekend at the Anchorage Museum. The NOAA Marine Debris Program is a proud partner on the Gyre project, which brings perspective to the global marine debris problem through art and science. It examines the complex relationship between humans, the ocean, and a culture of consumption, all the way down to how debris affects the pristine Alaska wilderness.

The exhibit takes a close look at the evolution of plastics from its use to advance technology, such as transportation, to its use in everyday disposable items, such as single-use water bottles. The exhibit tells a global marine debris story through the work of artists from around the world. It includes a National Geographic film, documentary photography, hands-on activities, and findings and trash gathered during a 2013 scientific expedition to study marine debris in Alaska.

The exhibit is on view February 7 through September 6 at the Anchorage Museum. It will be repackaged for travel around the United States, but there is no set schedule at this time. In the meantime, here are glimpses of art pieces from this extraordinary exhibit:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a comment

The Department of State’s Marine Debris Art Challenge

By: Kelly Cohun, Dave Gershman and Kira Vuille-Kowing

Tijuana, Mexico -- Marine debris art submitted by Proyecto Fronterizo de Educación Ambiental.  "La isla del futuro trágico" ("The island of tragic future.")

Tijuana, Mexico — Marine debris art submitted by Proyecto Fronterizo de Educación Ambiental. “La isla del futuro trágico” (“The island of tragic future.”)

One person’s trash can be another person’s treasure – or an art project, in this case. This fall, the Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) teamed up with U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world for the Marine Debris Art Challenge, elevating international awareness of marine debris for the annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) on September 21. Embassies and Consulates hosted cleanups and worked with local communities to clean up the coast and, at the same time, turn salvaged material into art projects.

In addition to the traditional target of the International Coastal Cleanup – beaches – many Embassies and Consulates organized cleanups of waterways, river and stream banks, harborside areas, and even on the shores of ponds or lakes. Local schools, environmental organizations, outdoor recreation associations, and other community and civic groups worked side by side with U.S. diplomats to make their local marine or aquatic environment a cleaner place – and turned what would have been trash into art!

Marine debris comes from many sources and places, including industrial practices, human behavior, and inadequate infrastructure, and it doesn’t recognize borders. International cooperation through initiatives like the Honolulu Strategy can help eliminate marine debris and reduce the ecological, human health and economic impacts associated with it.

From Thailand to Tijuana to Benin, artists demonstrated their creativity and innovation, making the most out of the debris. The Department of State received some truly excellent marine debris art submissions and stories about cleanup events from across the globe. Check out some of the photos featuring the art projects and the cleanups in the links below:

Are you interested in making marine debris art? You can still submit a project through December 31, 2013. For submission and more details, visit the Marine Debris Art Challenge Flickr Page:

Follow the Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs on Facebook for updates about the Marine Debris Art Challenge and other initiatives:

Kelly Cohun, Dave Gershman, and Kira Vuille-Kowing work for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 378 other followers