The problem is smaller than you think: Mapping microplastics using a robust citizen science program

We live in a disposable society and with plastic production continuing to grow there is an increasing domestic plastic waste problem that we need to deal with. One consequence of this plastic usage has been the issue of aquatic litter and microplastics.  As a result, plastics are a major pollutant of our waterways causing significant harm to wildlife as well as causing social and economic impacts. Microplastics, fragment, fibres, pellets or beads < 5mm, have now been found in over almost all seabirds. Thus, it is imperative to identify how much is out there and where are the hotspots, so targeted abatement strategies can be implemented.

In Australia, however, the extent of knowledge on microplastic loads is very limited. The Australian Microplastic Assessment Project (AUSMAP) seeks to address this through the creation of a national citizen science program for documenting types and amounts of microplastics on freshwater and marine shores. Launched in July 2018, AUSMAP is designed to collect scientifically valid data on the prevalence of microplastics in the Australian environment through a practical citizen science methodology that utilises EZECs and Marine Discovery Centres as Regional Hubs for school and community-based activities.

To date, 155 microplastic samples have been collected from 75 shorelines around Australia.  Preliminary results have demonstrated the variable nature of microplastics, with levels of microplastics ranging between zero and over 7,000 items per m2 in various locations.  The types of microplastics can be related to the catchment land-uses, with obvious differences between estuarine and coastal sites.  AUSMAP team are working with local authorities to assist in management of this issue.

This workshop will detail the AUSMAP protocol, showcase the development and implementation of the educational material, what has been found so far and how to get involved.

Blewitt, M.1; Wilson, S.2; Tymoszuk, K.1, Keary, K. 3

1 Total Environment Centre, PO Box K61, Haymarket, NSW, 1240

2 Macquarie University, 12 Wally’s Walk, North Ryde, NSW, 2109

3 Brewongle Environmental Education Centre, 587 Chapel Hill Road, Sackville North, NSW 2756

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Location: Room 4 - Workshop
Date: 04/10/2019 Time: 10:45 am - 11:30 am Kate Keary