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Data Collection and Monitoring of Microplastics

Grantee: St. Andrew’s Episcopal Academy – Ft. Pierce / FL
Project Title: Data Collection and Monitoring of Microplastics in the Indian River Lagoon
Grant Type: ecoSolution

Overall, it was a great application of the scientific method for the students and for them to realize that things don’t always go the way that we expect them to – giving them the experience of working around these “bumps” in the scientific process.
– Teacher at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Academy

Description: This Earth Month, many organizations and individuals around the globe are focused on ending plastic pollution. So too are the students at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Academy in Ft. Pierce, Florida.

With their microplastics project, funded by CPF, the students are learning about the impact of microplastics on marine organisms – while practicing the importance of organizing and implementing a plastic cleanup.

Microplastics create a number of unique issue to the marine environment. They are known to decrease the water quality, which directly affects sea plants, grasses, and animals. Microplastics are also easy for marine organisms to ingest, which can cause fatal consequences.

Students started the project by learning about the local, environmental concerns micro plastics presented in the Indian River Lagoon. The end goal was to help remove pollutants from the water by using phytoplankton nets and to improve the local water quality and the health of the local aquatic life by removing microplastics from the Lagoon.

Ultimately, the students found very little microplastics when testing Indian River Lagoon shortly after Hurricane Irma. The students theorized that the lack of results was due to the lagoon being flooded from the storm runoff – thereby causing the small plastic sediments to be washed out to sea.

Continuous impact/Community engagement: While the students did not find their expected results, they did manage to accomplish other tasks.  For example,  they spend several months cleaning and monitoring beaches to collect data on the effects of microplastics in the Lagoon.  This data will be submitted to the Florida Microplastics Awareness Project (FMAP).  Going forward, this project and its outcomes also presents students with the opportunity to explore how hurricanes [which affect Florida and other Gulf states] can impact plastic pollution on a larger scale.

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