Vast amounts of microplastics have been found floating on the surface of subtropical oceanic gyres. However, the distribution of floating plastic in the ocean is still poorly constrained, and there is a lack of information from coastlines. The reason behind is the general use of trawls towed by research vessels to collect scientific samples. We have designed a net trawl to collect samples in the nearshore from SUPs, kayaks, and rowing boats.
Coordinated by the University of Barcelona and the Spanish delegation of Surfrider Foundation, several social, environmental and sports associations in the Mediterranean coast and the Atlantic ocean have been acquiring scientific samples of microplastics floating in the sea surface since 2019. The samples are sent to the laboratory at University of Barcelona, where microplastic extraction, quantification (number of microplastics m^-2^ and weight of plastic m^-2^), and characterization (size, area, shape, colour, polymer type) is being performed. More than 30,000 plastics have been collected so far, most of them within the size range from 1 to 5 mm. The project has represented a paradigm shift in microplastic research, allowing to fill the gap in knowledge of the coastal area, and actively engaging and empowering citizens in the generation of new scientific data on microplastic pollution, raising awareness and having the potential of influencing consumer practices and policy.
The far-reaching impact of the project is reflected in the numerous presentations in scientific conferences, publications in high-impact scientific journals, social media interactions, national and international news media’s releases and public presentations and talks reaching out to a wide audience.
The consequences for the planet’s ecosystems of microplastic pollution are a question of immense importance. Coastal environments potentially contain significant amounts of floating microplastics, with harmful implications for marine ecosystems. Surfing for Science works with ocean-goers, collecting microplastic samples from near-shore areas using a net that can be towed from paddle surfboards, kayaks, rowing boats and more. The analysis of these samples helps to collect data vital to understanding the impact of this anthropogenic material in an under-studied coastal zone.European Union Prize for Citizen Science Jury 2023 (Kat Austen, Lewis Hou, Pedro Russo, Andrea Sforzi, Stefanie Wuschitz). View full Statement here.
The project has been funded by the Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología (FECYT) projects (refs. FCT-19-14747, FCT-21-16658, and FTC-22-17926) and the TRACE project (ref. TED2021-130515B-I00) funded by MCIN/AEI/ 10.13039/501100011033.
Anna Sanchez-Vidal (ES) is Associate Professor at the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Barcelona. Most of her research in the last two decades has focused on the natural drivers (atmospheric, oceanographic, geochemical) that control deep marine ecosystems, and changes resulting from anthropogenic drivers. Sanchez-Vidal has a significant interest in issues of direct societal concern, such as plastic pollution, deep sea mining and the removal of carbon from the atmosphere.
William P. de Haan
William P. de Haan (ES) is graduated in Environmental Science and specialized in Oceanography and Marine Management. He is currently pursuing his PhD in the Marine Sciences program of the University of Barcelona. His focus is the quantification, distribution and characterization of floating microplastics in the Western Mediterranean Sea. In recent years, he has collaborated with various national and international projects focused on plastic pollution, including the Surfing for Science project.
Oriol Uviedo (ES) is graduated in Marine Sciences from the University of Barcelona. He’s now managing some projects on plastic pollution, including the Surfing for Science and TRACE projects, working as a science facilitator and data quality controller.
Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection of the ocean with more than 30 years of experience. It promotes activities in the framework of lobbying, research and environmental education with volunteer programs, awareness-raising actions and training. The members at the Spanish delegation are Maria Ballesteros, volunteer manager in charge of citizen science projects; Idoia Fuertes, responsible for monitoring and data; and Xavier Curto, head of advocacy and press communication at the organisation.
Asensio Comunicació Visual
Asensio Comunicació Visual (ES) is a creative agency and audiovisual production company. We specialise in brand strategy, concept development, content marketing and visual storytelling in transmedia projects. We are the communication partner for many private companies, public institutions and NGOs. We are based in Barcelona and available for work worldwide.