The NOAA Marine Debris Program Awards Funding to 4 New Projects to Research Marine Debris

An image of microplastics on a beach.
Microplastic pieces on a beach (Photo: NOAA).

After an intensive evaluation process, the NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud to announce the four recipients of our 2019 research awards, totaling $1.2 million of funding toward marine debris research efforts. Marine debris is a relatively new field of research, and there are many opportunities to advance understanding of how debris impacts the environment. The NOAA Marine Debris Program held a nationwide competitive funding opportunity to support original, hypothesis-driven research projects focused on the ecological risk assessment, exposure studies, and fate and transport of marine debris. These awards continue the Marine Debris Program’s commitment to improve our understanding of the ecological risks associated with marine debris including levels of exposure to debris, as well as the fate and transport of marine debris in nearshore, coastal environments.

The new 2019 funded projects are:

Regents of the University of California at Riverside (California, $329,982) will investigate the origins and pathways of microplastic pollution in the Southern California Bight using modeling and field measurements of riverine and wastewater treatment inputs. This will enable the scientific and management communities to better understand the fate and transport of microplastics in the Southern California Bight and will also inform potential management strategies to more effectively prevent such debris from entering the environment in the first place.

Rutgers University (New Jersey, $320,000) will study the movement of microplastics from riverine to oceanic systems and the role this area may play as the entry point for microplastics into the food chain. Unique oceanographic characteristics exist where rivers and the ocean meet, and these characteristics may influence the movement of marine debris from one system to the other and the assimilation of microplastics in the marine food chain.  

University of Delaware (Delaware, $324,992) will evaluate the effects microplastics have on blue crabs and test whether exposure during their (larval) developmental stages impacts blue crab survival and settlement to Mid-Atlantic Bight estuaries. This will be done through a combination of modeling, laboratory studies, and field measurements, with the goal of understanding individual and population level effects. 

Virginia Institute of Marine Science (Virginia, $280,839) will examine whether microplastic ingestion increases disease susceptibility in steelhead trout, a commercially important salmonid species. New information suggests that exposure to very small microplastics and fibers may affect immune health, and research on the link between microplastic ingestion and disease expression will inform efforts by the scientific and management communities to address this problem.

Awarded Research Projects - Archives

Click the bars below to view projects financed in that year.

2020 Funded Projects

Grantee: National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine will advance one of the studies required in the draft legislation for the Save our Seas 2.0 Act. The study will examine the contributions of the United States to global ocean plastic waste, including types and sources, the amount of marine debris in our domestic waterways, and the export and import of plastic waste to and from the United States, among other questions. The final report will include recommendations for further scientific study and for reducing contributions to global ocean plastic waste.

2017 Funded Projects

Grantee: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ($192,690) will assess the role of seasonal phytoplankton blooms in increasing the availability of microplastics for sea scallop consumption, and if microplastics serve as means of transferring dangerous bacterial pathogens to scallops.
Grantee: University of North Carolina at Wilmington ($289,098) will assess if black sea bass consume contaminated microplastics and if microplastics are being transferred between prey and predator species.
Grantee: The University of Connecticut ($257,531) will identify what effects microplastic consumption has on oysters, what types of microplastics are most likely to be consumed by oysters, and increase understanding of how microplastics are impacting marine resources.
Grantee: Arizona State University ($195,837) will use a risk assessment framework to quantify microplastics (plastic pieces