Microplastics Citizen Science Project

Underwater shot of fish and plastic waste 

The source and extent of microplastics in Port Phillip Bay, and its catchment, are largely unknown. This project, led by Sustainability Victoria, and in partnership with EPA Victoria and Melbourne Water, engaged volunteers and scientists in a whole-of-catchment collaborative research project to better understand the sources and impacts of microplastics in Port Phillip Bay and its catchment.

group of people conducting sand sampling on Frankston beach

Plastic and microplastic litter is an emerging and concerning issue for the Victorian community, in particular those who inhabit and recreate in coastal and marine environments.

Such litter is harmful to marine life including to birds, sharks, turtles and marine mammals and may cause injury or death through drowning, entanglement and internal injuries, or starvation following ingestion. Further, concerns have been raised about the potential for plastic litter to collect toxic substances which bio-accumulate in foodwebs.

This project had the following stages:

  1. Development of a sand sampling methodology

    This stage engaged a range of organisations and scientists to collaboratively design a sand sampling methodology for the citizen scientists to use. This was done in the field over a few days, testing various tools and techniques to develop a simple, yet efficient and effective, sampling method to collect sand samples for analysis.


  2. Undertaking sand sampling

    On April 20–22, citizen scientists from around Port Phillip Bay undertook sand sampling for this project at the six reference sites:

    • Eastern Beach, Geelong
    • Werribee South Beach, Werribee
    • West Beach, St Kilda
    • Keast Park, Seaford
    • Wells Street Beach, Frankston
    • Tyrone Boat Ramp, Rye

    Sites were selected in collaboration with the Port Phillip EcoCentre to provide a representation of Port Phillip Bay beaches. Criteria included: location, accessibility, presence of engaged community groups, litter accumulation patterns, presence of plastic pellet industry in adjacent community, and water flow patterns.


  3. Data analysis and reporting

    RMIT University are currently analysing the data collected in April. A report will be made available on the SV website once results compiled.

    The report will provide baseline microplastics litter data for Victoria and will also be used inform litter programs at the state level and local level, such as by the Port Phillip Baykeeper to design community education and research programs.

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Project acknowledgements

Supporting SV, EPA Victoria and Melbourne Water to deliver this project are the Port Phillip EcoCentre, Tangaroa Blue and RMIT University.

SV thanks the following groups for actively participating in collecting sand samples: Werribee River Association, Werribee Riverkeeper, Port Phillip EcoCentre, Port Phillip Baykeeper, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Massachusetts, USA), Frankston Beach Patrol, and the Rye Foreshore Advisory Group.

Methodology

Logo for Sustainability Victoria with the word, guide

Sand sampling for microplastics

Information for volunteers and scientists taking part in a project to better understand the sources and impacts of microplastics in Port Phillip Bay and its catchment.