May 13, 2019
A project designed to empower communities to look for microplastics on their local coastlines is training Australians on how to find tiny pieces of plastic pollution.
The Australian Microplastics Assessment Program (AusMAP) is a citizen science initiative enlisting school students, environment groups, universities and civil educators to collect critical data about microplastics in Australian waterways. The project is a program of the Total Environment Centre, a not-for-profit organisation that works to preserve Australian ecosystems through education and advocacy.
Project director Dr Michelle Blewitt has spent the last 12 months teaching members of coastal communities to search their waterways for microplastics, using a technique accessible to people with no science background. Participants are provided an AusMAP kit, introduced to the program protocols and taught how to undertake scientific sampling. Samples are then sent to Sydney for further analysis.
The hope is that those involved in the training sessions will share the knowledge with others in the community, leading to a large network of data contributors. Once sufficient information is collected AusMAP plans to publish the findings in an interactive online database.
Dr Blewitt said the AusMAP project was empowering local communities with the knowledge needed to understand and combat microplastic pollution.
“It lets them take ownership of the problem and really encourages them to reflect on their plastic use,” Blewitt told ABC News.
“Surveying for microplastics helps us to look for hot spots, analyse the type of microplastics that we find and potentially look for solutions to stop them winding up in our oceans and in our food chains in the first place.”
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Liam is Planet Ark's Communications Coordinator. Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia.