"To protect and restore the Florida coastal and Indian River Lagoon ecosystems
through education, research and community stewardship."

Marine Discovery Center Partners In Microplastics Awareness

Dec 16th, 2015 | Category: Announcements, MDC News

Florida Microplastic Awareness Project

By Lisa D. Mickey

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla., Dec. 16, 2015 – The Marine Discovery Center has enlisted citizen scientists to launch a new program called the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project (FMAP) in the Indian River Lagoon.

FMAP is a project funded through an outreach and education grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris Program. Volunteer citizens collect coastal water samples, which are filtered and examined microscopically for microplastics. Data collected by volunteers will be logged into a database to identify regional concentration of microplastic particles.

Microplastics are defined as plastics measuring less than 5mm in size — about the size of a pencil eraser. Sources of microplastics include: the breakdown of larger plastics; by-products of plastic production (called nurdles); microbeads (found in health care products); and clothing manufactured using synthetic fibers. Both microbeads and synthetic fibers are incapable of filtration by water and sewage treatment plants.

Microplastics are often the result of spillage from container ships. Plastics may leach toxic chemicals used in manufacturing or may be consumed by various organisms from seawater. Microplastics have been found in the stomachs and tissue of wildlife.

“We all know that marine debris is a big concern for our oceans and waterways, but we were surprised at how much of that debris is microplastic, only visible through the lens of a microscope,” said Chad Truxall, executive director of the Marine Discovery Center (MDC).

The Marine Discovery Center was invited to partner with NOAA’s FMAP program and to utilize its corps of volunteers to sample local waters. Truxall said the project’s goal is to determine the level of microplastics in local salt-water bodies, as well as to educate the community through outreach events and workshops.

“It’s important to engage the community through active participation,” added Truxall. “Citizen scientists in this program have become aware of the microplastics issue and as they participate in water sampling, they also become the best advocates for problems and solutions.”

The FMAP project is an extension of the citizen-science efforts of the newly created Project H2O, headquartered at MDC. Project H2O is a collaborative effort between cities, counties, nonprofits and private-sector organizations designed to protect springs, rivers, estuaries and oceans.

Water sampling for the FMAP project has already started at the Marine Discovery Center, with volunteers testing water in locations of the Indian River Lagoon throughout the community. Truxall expects the project to expand into fresh-water sampling in the new year.

To learn more about the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project, visit www.plasticaware.org.

About The Marine Discovery Center

The Marine Discovery Center (MDC) was founded in 2000 with the goal to protect and restore the Florida coastal and Indian River Lagoon ecosystems through education, research and community stewardship. A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, MDC has become widely recognized for its quality educational and hands-on, feet-wet learning programs for kids, as well as adults. Using its 40-passenger Discovery boat and fleet of kayaks, the center offers learning opportunities as a floating classroom, in adventure camps, as well as for guided eco-tours by certified naturalists. The center showcases engaging exhibits for experiential learning and invites community participation in stewardship opportunities.