Discipline: Ecology Environmental and Earth Sciences
Subcategory: Pollution/Toxic Substances/Waste
Melinda Paduani - Florida International University
The Biscayne Bay Task Force, a stakeholder group of scientists, advocates, local government representatives, and NGOs in Miami-Dade County, FL, has highlighted the management of plastic pollution as a top priority (Biscayne Bay Task Force, 2020). In contrast to progress being made on visible plastic debris, a lack of baseline data on microplastics (MPs) across Biscayne Bay precludes regulations and programs from including microplastics in water quality assessments despite increasing evidence of their presence in Florida estuaries (Kitayama, 2017; McEachern et al., 2019; Yu et al., 2018; Kleinschmidt & Janosik, 2021; Badylak et al., 2021). Therefore, there is a need for spatially and temporally extensive data to understand this emergent pollutant and to identify potential sources. As a first step to enabling sustained data collection, the Miami Plastic Patrol citizen science initiative was created.Participants obtain equipment kits and collect discrete water samples with glass jars or by towing a neuston net. Samples are taken at sites which can include the open water, along coastal areas, in canals, or other waterbodies connected to Biscayne Bay. The same sites are visited a minimum of twice a year (once during the wet and dry seasons). Samples are filtered through (paper) coffee filters, 3% hydrogen peroxide is added to the filters before oxidizing for 30 minutes, then filters are stained with Nile Red (a lipophilic dye which makes certain plastics fluoresce). Filters are viewed under blue light (455 – 460 nm excitation emission) and through a yellow acrylic shield (500 nm longpass) to identify particles 1 mm – 5 mm in length that fulfill certain criteria.Calibration tests were conducted to determine: 1) If 3% hydrogen peroxide degraded plastics or filter paper, 2) The effectiveness of hydrogen peroxide in reducing organic matter, and 3) The recovery efficiency of the methods for MPs. Hydrogen peroxide was not found to significantly alter MPs or filter paper and counts of fluorescing material with hydrogen peroxide were not statistically different than those without peroxide. For 9 polymers in the spiked control test, 92.8% ± 12.2 (SD) of MP particles were recovered. Fifteen environmental MPs were identified resulting in a 16.9% MP positivity rate, or 0.4 MPs/L. Miami Plastic Patrol is now being implemented by a growing number of participants, including 6 organizations and 13 Miami-Dade teachers (expected 570 students grades 9-12). A total of 109 people have been engaged in the project. Participating groups will continue sampling over the next year to assess the spatial distribution of MPs in relation to population density and compare MP abundance in the wet and dry seasons. Miami Plastic Patrol is intended to provide the foundation for a sustained microplastic monitoring effort to build a long-term dataset and facilitate policy action on microplastic pollution in South Florida.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): I would like to thank Florida International University's Institute of Environment and The Everglades Foundation for funding this project. I also thank CleanMiamiBeach and NightSea for providing materials.
Faculty Advisor: Michael Ross, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: I planned, designed, executed, and currently maintain this research project.