An image of microplastics on a beach.

The NOAA Marine Debris Program Awards Funding to 5 New Projects to Research Marine Debris

After a highly competitive review process, the NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud to announce the 5 recipients of our 2021 research awards, totaling nearly $1.4 million of funding toward marine debris research efforts. The NOAA Marine Debris Program offered a nationwide competitive funding opportunity to support original, hypothesis-driven research projects focused on the critical input pathways for marine debris introduction into the coastal zone. These awards continue the Marine Debris Program’s commitment to increasing our shared understanding of marine debris and its impacts.

The 2021 funded projects are:


Rochester Institute of Technology (New York, $332,282) will examine sources of both macro- and micro-debris entering Lake Ontario, including storm drains, stormwater ponds, tributaries, and riparian areas. The researchers will also evaluate how marine debris breaks down over time and create a model to understand the total amount of marine debris in Lake Ontario. This project will provide information about the socioeconomic and geographic factors leading to marine debris in the Great Lakes region and identify leverage points where local resource managers and stakeholders can take action to prevent and reduce marine debris. 

San Diego State University (California, $293,846) will conduct field, laboratory, and modeling studies to understand the sources and amounts of marine debris entering the San Diego River watershed. Using new and existing data and remote sensing techniques, the researchers will develop a model for the watershed to compare inputs of debris from river margin sources, including encampments and illegal dumping, with debris from storm drain outfalls. The project will also interview unhoused individuals to determine the drivers of debris-generating behavior and develop strategies to reduce debris from encampments.  

University of Delaware (Delaware, $300,373) will measure marine debris abundance, size, and type in the Delaware Bay. The researchers will conduct boat-based sampling, shoreline cleanups, and satellite imagery analysis to refine a model of the Bay to predict how marine debris enters and exits, as well as how it moves within the Bay. This research will provide actionable information for future management decisions to reduce marine debris and improve the quality of Delaware coastal waters. 

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (Maryland, $167,155) will examine how marshes and submerged aquatic vegetation influence the way plastic debris flows down the Choptank River. Using field sampling, uncrewed aerial vehicles, and modeling, the researchers will characterize the size and abundance of debris in the water and sediments of the Choptank River basin, and compare how plastic debris is deposited and degrades in open water and vegetated habitats. The project will also develop and model scenarios to determine which factors and mitigation strategies could have the greatest impact on reducing marine debris in riverine environments. 

Villanova University (Pennsylvania, $338,123) will use field and laboratory experiments to explore how marine debris moves from the upstream areas of the Guánica Watershed to the nearshore coastal waters of southwest Puerto Rico. In partnership with local partners in Puerto Rico, the researchers will look at sources of debris, how debris transport varies across the wet and dry seasons, and what factors influence debris degradation. This information will be used to develop a regional assessment of marine debris in the Guánica Watershed, which can both be used to improve natural resource management in the region and be applied to increase our understanding of marine debris in other riverine and coastal locations.


Last updated Fri, 08/25/2023 - 04:49 pm EDT