NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!


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New Journal Article on Plastics in the Marine Environment

By: Courtney Arthur

The NOAA Marine Debris Program recently co-authored a column in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. This edition pulls together perspectives from academia, industry, and government on the topic of plastics in the marine environment.

“The widespread occurrence of plastics in the marine environment has resulted in a range of concerns about potential negative effects, and many suggestions have been made about how best to tackle these problems. Science on the issue is developing rapidly, which prompts us to examine the current state of knowledge from 3 perspectives. Here we consider the extent to which we are able to bridge the gap between the sometimes controversial views on the problem of plastic debris in our environment.”

One main point of agreement across the board was the evolving role of marine plastics in the transfer of persistent organic pollutants to organisms. You can read the full column here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/etc.2426/full


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MDP Launches New Prevention Partnerships and Research Initiatives

By: Nancy Wallace

Education, outreach, and research are major cornerstones of our program’s efforts to prevent marine debris, one of the biggest threats oceans face today.  That’s why I am proud to announce that the NOAA Marine Debris Program has provided $949,512 in grants to launch 11 new initiatives with groups across the country on projects ranging from curriculum development and teacher workshops, to museum displays, to plastics research.

Eight groups received funding last month to work with the MDP on education and outreach initiatives through our prevention, education, and outreach partnership grants. Three groups received funding to study microplastics as part of our research grant opportunity. They are:

Prevention, Education, and Outreach Partnerships

  • The Sea Research Foundation to educate teen audiences in Connecticut about marine debris and provide opportunities for the teens to share their work on marine debris with peers through the “Teen Marine Debris Initiative.”($20,715)
  • Oregon State University to create a comprehensive marine debris curriculum and hands-on activities for Oregon’s 4th-12th grade students. ($56,880)
  • Anchorage Museum Association to create an exhibit that informs visitors about marine plastics through science and art using marine debris collected off the Alaskan coast. ($65,000)
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation to provide California’s K-12 teachers with an in-depth overview of marine debris problems and solutions, along with tools for integrating marine debris lessons into classrooms through three ocean plastic pollution summits for teachers. ($52,306)
  • Ocean Conservancy to expand the educational and outreach components of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas initiative and increase hands-on experiential learning activities nationwide that advance solutions to marine debris through the Talking Trash and Taking Action campaign. ($100,000)
  • Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean to educate youth on marine debris at schools and dockside locations on the East and West Coasts with camps, museums, community centers and waterfront organizations, using a remotely operated vehicle and STEM-education curriculum and activities. ($50,000)
  • University of Georgia to conduct shoreline surveys and cleanups with students and use the data to educate the general public, students, and teachers in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia on marine debris; the project leads will also develop a traveling museum exhibit. ($63,920)
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to launch a campaign focusing on behavior change, based on 10 years of research, on the environmental impacts of lost traps from South Florida’s lobster fishery. ($49,443)

Research Grants

  • Regents of the University of California, Davis to explore how microplastics contaminated with absorbed chemicals impact species that ingest them, as well as the likelihood of microplastic particles and chemicals to be transferred to a higher trophic level. ($200,000)
  • Sea Education Association to explore how animal behavior influences the ingestion of potentially harmful microplastic particles. ($117,751)
  • Virginia Institute of Marine Science to determine which factors, such as temperature and pH, are important influences on the way chemicals and plastics interact in the environment. ($173,497)

The MDP places a very high value on partnerships. The marine debris problem cannot be solved by any one group or person alone and there is a great deal of innovative and dedicated work going on across the country. That’s why we are so excited to team up with them; our partners in research will help us answer questions about marine debris impacts, and our partners in education can help us make sure those impacts never happen in the first place.

We look forward to seeing how these projects progress over this first year. Stay tuned for in-depth information on each effort, and keep an eye on our website and blog for photos, updates from the project leads, and more.

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