Florida Microplastic Awareness Project

Project Goal: To enhance microplastics data and awareness about the presence of microplastics in Florida’s waters.

The Florida Microplastic Awareness Project (FMAP) is a citizen-science project that raises awareness about the presence of microplastics in Florida’s waters.

Volunteers enhance microplastics data by collecting and filtering coastal water samples from their local waterways. Volunteers also help educate stakeholders about the sources of and problems caused by microplastics.

Funded in 2015 by an outreach and education grant from NOAA Marine Debris Program, FMAP uses methods based on those developed by Abby Barrows, principal investigator of Adventure Scientists’ Worldwide Microplastics Project.

Follow the FMAP Facebook page, join the Facebook group, and browse the  YouTube channel to learn more about news, training sessions and volunteer opportunities!

Geographic Scope:

Volunteer Activities:

Agency Partners:

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What To Expect

The Florida Microplastic Awareness Project has several roles for citizen scientists. Volunteers are welcome to participate in one or more of the following activities:

  • Collecting water samples
  • Filtering water samples
  • Looking at filters under a microscope
  • Helping teach others about microplastics at local outreach events

Read the FMAP Volunteer Manual to learn more about each volunteer activity above, including the FMAP protocols and forms involved with each.

Additional resources for those volunteers interested in sampling for microplastics are found below.

Who To Contact

If you are interested in volunteering with the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project, find and connect with your local FMAP coordinator on the map below. If you would like more information, please contact Dr. Maia McGuire.

Microplastic Sampling Training Videos

Watch the following videos to learn more about microplastics and/or to learn about the FMAP methods for sampling for and identifying microplastics in water samples.

More Information

scientist holding microplastics in a handEach time you take a shower or do laundry, you just may be adding microscopic bits of plastic into the aquatic environment. These tiny particles never biodegrade and may be accidentally eaten by marine life, potentially threatening their health. Toxins in the environment are attracted to and can easily adhere to their surface.

Plastics may leach toxic chemicals, used in their manufacture, or picked up from the seawater. They might also impede an organism’s ability to eat.

Microplastic is generated in several ways. Polyethylene fragments used in personal-care products are one source, because many water-treatment facilities are unable to filter them out. For plastic garbage in the environment, wave action and sunlight can weaken large items and break them into ever-smaller fragments. Some microplastic material is dust from construction or industrial processes that’s carried to the ocean by wind or water.

All of these tiny plastic particles wouldn’t be such a problem if they quickly broke down into simpler chemical forms, but plastic molecules are very resilient and could remain intact to threaten the environment for thousands of years.

Download Contaminants in The Urban Environment: Microplastics to learn more.

Have you been in contact with a site coordinator and begun sampling for microplastics? Submit sampling data and volunteer time use the following links:

Additional Resources For Sampling Microplastics

NOAA’s Laboratory Methods for the Analysis of Microplastics in the Marine Environment was published in July 2015. The methods are best suited for a university or formal lab setting (as opposed to K-12 or citizen science efforts). Methods are given for both sediment and water samples.

Additional Resources For Identifying Microplastics

The Marine and Environmental Research Institute’s Guide to Microplastic Identification provides tips for observing and identifying microplastics from water samples that have been vacuum-filtered through 0.45 micron gridded filter paper. It does not try to identify the source of the plastic, but has suggestions about how to tell if something is plastic or not.

PublicLab’s How To Analyze Plastics Forensically blog post is a great resource to use when trying to determine if something is plastic. Cotton fibers will “shrink away” from the hot needle, but the other uses of the hot needle described on the website should help you distinguish between plastics and non-plastics.

Are you a teacher interested in incorporating microplastics into your lesson plans, or an informal educator looking for microplastics activities to do with youths?

Consult our Suggestions for Teaching K-12 Youth about Microplastics (updated link coming soon).

Then, check out the Sea Grant-created curriculum/materials/resources below.

  • Microplastics Curriculum
    Three curricula developed for grades 8-12 that use NOAA’s Marine Microplastic Portal to guide teachers and students through topics such as marine microplastic sampling techniques, distribution of microplastic concentrations, and the discovery of marine microplastics through time.
    Created by the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Science Outreach Team

  • Marine Microplastics Primer for Extension Professionals
    This publication is intended to serve as a guide for extension professionals to aid in answering questions about microplastics that they have encountered or may encounter in the future.

  • Does it Sink or Float? (updated link coming soon)
    A simplified version of the activity “How Can Different Polymers be Identified?” (below) that has been used at elementary STEM fairs.
    Created by Maia McGuire, Florida Sea Grant 

  • Making Beeswax Wraps for Food
    Created by Hawaii Sea Grant 

  • Marine Debris STEAMSS Curriculum
    Curriculum for grades 4-5, 6-8 and 9-12.
    Created by Oregon Sea Grant with a NOAA Marine Debris Program grant 

  • Nearpod Module on Microplastics for Grades 6-8
    Created by Angela Greene, Ohio Sea Grant

  • Plastic Pollution and You
    An interdisciplinary 15-lesson curriculum focused on a human-induced threat to the health of New York’s marine and freshwater aquatic
    Created by New York Sea Grant

  • Sampling for Microplastics in Beach Sand (updated link coming soon)
    Protocol for upper elementary school-age through adult volunteers.
    Created by Maia McGuire, Florida Sea Grant

  • Microplastics Awareness Activity (updated link coming soon)
    This activity is great for elementary school science nights!
    Created by Dr. Laura Tiu, Florida Sea Grant

  • Sea Turtle Lesson 6: How Do Human Activities Affect Sea Turtles?
    This lesson from Florida Sea Grant’s 5th grade sea turtle curriculum contains several marine-debris-related activities.

  • Mitigating Microplastics
    Curriculum for grade 6-8 that includes three lessons intended to engage 6-8 grade students with the issue of microplastics in the ocean, analyzing both the problem and possible solutions. The lessons are structured to include opportunities for student inquiry, as well as collaboration and engagement with real data collected by scientific researchers working in the field. Each lesson includes an estimated length, which will vary by classroom. The entire curriculum is designed to take about one week, but may be extended by including a project at the end of the curriculum.
    Created by Oregon Sea Grant


  • Follow National Geographic’s Friendly Floatees
    In this activity, middle school students follow the path of the Friendly Floatees, a shipment of 29,000 rubber ducks that spilled overboard in 1992.

  • Engineering for Good: Plastic Solutions
    Three-week project-based learning module for middle school students focused on developing solutions for negative impacts of plastics on the environment. NGSS-correlated.

  • How Can Different Polymers be Identified?
    Lab activity for 5th to 10th grade.

  • Plastic Pirates
    Curriculum covering a variety of topics related to plastic and plastic pollution. There is a summary for teachers at the end of each chapter with difficulty level and time needed for each of the activities within the chapter.
    Created by the German Ministry of Education 

  • Marine Debris Toolkit for Educators
    One of many educational materials available from NOAA’s Marine Debris Program.

  • Ocean Plastics Academy
    Developed in collaboration with a broad coalition of educators, scientists and industry experts, Ocean Plastics Academy combines a suite of curriculum-aligned resources with practical activities that help schools radically reduce their use of single-use plastics. The resources have been designed to teach ages 5-16, aligned to the National Curriculum for England programmes of study for Science, Geography and Design & Technology.

  • Plastic Challenge
    This series of lessons for grades 2-11 is designed to extend students’ knowledge and understanding of plastics and plastic waste on a global scale. The lessons target students in elementary, middle, or high school.

  • PlasticSeas
    In 2018, EarthEcho sponsored an expedition for teachers to investigate the topic of plastic pollution in Australia. A series of lesson plans (most designed for middle school, but one is for high school students) is available for download from the website. Lessons are correlated to Australian education standards and NGSS.

  • Educator’s Guide to Marine Debris: Southeast and Gulf of Mexico
    A guide that has many great marine debris-related activities for teachers.

  • Volvo Ocean Race Plastic Pollution Curriculum
    Presentations, active learning components in teachers guide, worksheets and booklets. Available in 6 different languages and suitable for ages 6-12.

  • Washed Ashore Integrated Arts Marine Debris Curriculum
    A 12-lesson curriculum that connects science and art to help students understand the plastic pollution problem and communicate about it through art.


The map below visualizes the concentration of microplastic sampling results for water samples around Florida. Older data (which do not differentiate between plastic fibers and natural fibers) can be viewed on this older Google Map site.

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