Florida Microplastic Awareness Project: Using Citizen Science to Inspire Behavior Change

Citizen Science
Oral Presentation

Prepared by M. McGuire
University of Florida Sea Grant Extension, 150 Sawgrass Road, Bunnell, FL, 32110, United States

Contact Information: mpmcg@ufl.edu; 386-437-7464


Microplastics are small pieces of plastic (less than 5 mm in size) that are becoming ubiquitous in the marine environment. There is a need to raise awareness about the sources of microplastics, the abundance of microplastics in coastal waterways, and the threats that microplastics might pose, both to wildlife and humans. In 2015 the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project (FMAP) was created with support from a 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Program Outreach and Education grant. The FMAP teaches people about microplastics and their possible impacts. It promotes ways for people to reduce their personal plastic waste generation. The project also trains citizen scientists to sample and analyze local coastal waters for the presence of microplastics. Since September 2015, the volunteer effort has allowed the collection and analysis of over 1,600 samples from more than 600 locations around the state of Florida. The project has also been replicated throughout the Gulf of Mexico, in Georgia, and even Lake Huron. Fibers are the most common form of plastic being reported. This is the first large-scale data set for microplastics in Florida waters. More than 1,900 people have completed the FMAP pledge. On average, people pledged to make 3.9 behavior changes (they report already taking an average of 4 of the suggested actions). In follow-up surveys received from over 250 pledge-takers, people reported on average having made more than three behavior changes. 87% reported having shared information about microplastics with others.