University of North Florida and Eckerd College Receive $150,000 Grant for Ocean Debris Reduction Efforts

Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

The University of North Florida (UNF) and Eckerd College have received a $150,000 award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The two educational institutions have partnered to try and help keep plastic out of our oceans. The money has been granted as part of a Marine Debris Program to help reduce single-use plastic consumption and foster long-term pro-environmental behaviors among undergraduates in coastal communities. 

The goal is to reduce generation of marine debris in those areas over time. 

The new grant, titled, “Toward Sustainable Campuses — Individual Accountability in Single-Use Plastic Reduction Campaigns,” is one of Eckerd College’s attempts in collaboration with the University of North Florida to change individual single-use plastic consumption behaviors through education, outreach and challenge events by adding a personal tracking mechanism via a mobile phone application. 

Participants will have the ability to take part in multiple week-long Plastic Reduction Challenges that will lead to increased individual accountability and commitment via an easy-to-use smartphone app. Participants will log each use and refusal of single-use plastic and receive real-time feedback on behavior.

Eckerd College launched the Reduce Single-Use project in 2018 at its St. Petersburg campus near the Gulf Coast. The new study is a partnership that builds on the initial findings and replicates the project at UNF’s campus.

Part of the effort includes a series of workshops, lectures, beach cleanup activities and other events to increase plastic reduction awareness. Single-use plastics are one of the main sources of plastic debris in the ocean. Improperly disposed items can be blown by wind or washed by rain and eventually enter the marine environment. These objects can then wind up killing the animals in the ocean and create a lasting effect on marine life.

UNF and Eckerd College will analyze the data collected from the app as well as surveys from the activities to better understand consumption patterns. Eckerd College will manage the grant and collect and analyze the data received from the UNF campus. Eckerd College will continue to manage the grant, run surveys, conduct challenges and outreach activities, as well as collect and analyze the data received from the UNF campus.

The expected completion date for the project is for the fall 2022.

Florida and the Caribbean are surrounded by clear, blue water full of diverse coral reefs, fish, and other marine life. The NOAA Marine Debris Program’s works with partners in the region on marine debris projects, including assessing regional needs, removal efforts, developing and implementing prevention strategies and action plans, and education and outreach. Increasing levels of debris in both the ocean and at the land-sea interface are of growing concern to stakeholders of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS). 

Marine debris in the form of derelict fishing gear can destroy benthic organisms, entangle both benthic and mobile fauna, and reduce the structural complexity of habitats. Currents associated with strong storms can move debris onto reefs, where corals and other benthic organisms are damaged or killed.

About NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) embraces the cultures of scientific accuracy and precision, service to protect life and property, These three agencies were brought together in 1970 with the establishment of NOAA, an agency within the Department of Commerce. NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. The Agency caters to daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings, and climate monitoring, fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce.