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Communities Monitoring and Understanding Microplastics

A System to Monitor Microplastics on Icelandic Shores

Advisors: Melissa Belz

  Adam Donovan Kaczmarek, James Thomas Ventola, Yunxin Chen

This project was intended to help the Port Phillip EcoCentre establish a long-term monitoring program to track microplastic pollution in Port Phillip Bay. We trialed, assessed, and designed an implementation plan for the Baykeeper Beach Litter Audit at nine pre-selected sites. We collected preliminary data and developed informational guides, instructional videos, and promotional flyers to recruit and inform citizen scientists. The monitoring program has potential to serve as a tool for management of the bay over the next fifty years.

Plastic pollution is a complex problem. The chemical properties of plastic make it a threat to marine biodiversity when it is improperly disposed of. This project assists the Port Phillip EcoCentre, which has been conducting litter audits across streets, beaches, and rivers in order to determine levels of plastic pollution in Port Phillip Bay’s catchment area. This project compiled litter audit, human, and environmental data into a Geographic Information Systems map to visualise the data, facilitate its analysis, and enable communication with the public and government. The visualisation was analysed for correlations between pollution levels and factors which will impact waste management policies and source reduction plans on the local and state level.

 Microplastics are a growing problem worldwide, and their effects are only starting to be understood. Our goal was to produce a beach monitoring method that can help community groups in Iceland track changes in microplastic pollution. We tested multiple methods from previous studies and combined aspects into one method that is time efficient, simple, and low cost. We also developed an easy to use, consistent verification test. The final method is an ideal way for community scientists to monitor microplastics in beach sand. To keep Iceland’s shores clean and marine ecosystems healthy, monitoring microplastics will be the first step in understanding plastic pollution.