USF Empowers a Community to Prevent Marine Debris

Current Collections, A Community's Coastal Debris Sculpture.
The University of South Florida College of Marine Science and the NOAA Marine Debris Program partnered to engage youth, locals, and tourists by targeting shoreline and beach litter in Florida.

Project Dates: August 2014 - December 2015

What is the project?

The Clean Community-Clean Coast: Empowering Youth, Teachers and Volunteers to Prevent Marine Debris (4Cs) project brought together community beach cleanup efforts, environmental awareness forums, and afterschool Science Technology Engineering Math and art programs to help change behaviors that contribute to the marine debris problem. 4Cs engaged youth, locals, and tourists by targeting shoreline and beach litter at sites in St. Petersburg, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia where debris easily enters storm drains and discharges into waterways.

4Cs took a grassroots, cross disciplinary approach to raising awareness and encouraging behavior change. By conducting focus groups and holding community forums with both students and key stakeholders, they defined the community’s socio-cultural norms and attitudes, developed an educational program, used those local channels to spread the word, and increased the understanding of the relationship between the problems of marine debris (i.e. sources, impacts on nature, tourism) and their own daily behavior. Additionally, 4Cs solicited debris collection and art creation help from the community, sparking local and wide-spread interest around 'Current Collections’, a 40-foot sculpture that rises 31 feet into the air.

What does it accomplish?

4Cs focused on a targeted and effective campaign to spread the message about marine debris and involved the community in prevention efforts. The project sparked public awareness through a large-scale art installation, hosted workshops, forums, and focus groups, developed formal and informal educational materials for coastal or inland communities, and provided communications training and online social-media tools to teens and volunteer leaders.

Who is involved?

The NOAA Marine Debris Program-funded grant collaborators included: the University of South Florida (USF) College of Marine Science , the Georgia State University Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design (with faculty and students operating under the Embodied Energy Studio LLC), the USF St. Petersburg College of Education, USF College of Behavior and Community Sciences, Keep Pinellas Beautiful, Tampa Bay Watch and in-kind support was provided by the St. Petersburg Science Festival and the City of St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department. The project sparked so much interest in the community that the list of partners offering in-kind support continued to grow.

What is something unique about the project?

The sculpture, Current Collections, was the focal point of the Fourth Annual St. Petersburg Science Festival, held in October 2014, and seen by more than 25,000 people. It invited onlookers to ask questions, teaching through engagement and inquiry. By using reclaimed and recycled coastal debris, Current Collections reflected the movement of trash in our world. It traveled to the 2015 Earth Day in Atlanta and returned to the St. Petersburg Science Festival in 2015, remaining on display through 2016. You can find more information at,, a blog documenting the community engagement and the sculpture’s journey.