"AUSMAP adapts citizen science to provide a simple and effective methodology for sampling and investigating microplastics and their sources. The intention to engage school students, among other volunteer participants, directly relates to curriculum and is bolstered by an accreditation process for (a) train the trainer – providing teachers and other volunteer leaders with the necessary skills and insights to ensure the sampling protocols are followed and the data is reliable, and (b) working efficiently with laboratories that can investigate selected samples and identify sources, once the first round of investigation has been done by volunteers/students. This helps ensure the data has utility and the overall exercise is meaningful for the participants, particularly where it leads to the effective management of the sources of plastic pollution.
My own recent experience of this innovation in practice has been through AUSMAP’s partnership with Macquarie University and Surfrider Foundation in their successful application for funding under Round 5 of the Community Litter Grant Program managed by the NSW Environment Protection Authority. The grant proposal built on earlier work that had been conducted in the Dee Why Lagoon catchment on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Dee Why Lagoon is a critical habitat that is impacted by plastic pollution. The proposed project integrates findings developed using the AUSMAP methodology with EPA approved approaches to investigating and acting on plastic litter using the Local Litter Check online tool.
The AUSMAP data was highly effective in considering sources of plastic pollution from a number of land uses in the catchment, which were readily identified, and which pointed to ways to reduce the pollution at sources – through a combination of targeted behaviour change initiatives (supported by the Local Litter Check data) and use of pit baskets (‘drain buddies’) in stormwater drains. The Technical Review Committee that approved the funding strongly endorsed the strategic and innovative approach represented in the grant application. It is hoped that this project provides a model for catchment-based approaches to plastic pollution prevention in similar settings elsewhere."
Senior Project Officer
Litter Prevention Unit - NSW Environment Protection Authority
"As a sport that is powered by nature, SailGP works with local partners in every city we visit on projects to engage our staff, teams and stakeholders and raise awareness of the sustainability issues our planet is facing.
SailGP was delighted to partner with AUSMAP ahead of the Sydney SailGP 2020 and join them to collect data alongside their scientists and experts. We thoroughly enjoyed the unique experience of contributing to a piece of research that will help find solutions to the global issue of plastic pollution.
It was much more than just your standard beach clean."
Sustainability Program Manager - SailGP
"The Cooks River Alliance was extremely excited to work alongside AUSMAP. The training program proved a highly valuable and engaging experience, with AUSMAP’s collaborative and hands-on approach empowering organisations and individuals to better understand and take meaningful action against the pervasive threat of microplastics to waterways such as the Cooks River.”
Senior Catchment Officer - Cooks River Alliance
"I very much enjoyed working with AUSMAP to provide an engaging and educational experience for corporate volunteers. AUSMAP is doing brilliant work and their team is so passionate and knowledgeable. I would recommend getting involved in this project as a really tangible contribution towards tackling microplastics and plastic pollution!"
Workplace Giving & Corporate Engagement Manager - WWF Australia
"Living Ocean is a community ocean conservation group based on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, focusing on citizen science programs.
In our collaboration with AUSMAP, we are engaging the local community in an exciting program that raises awareness of one of the greatest environmental threats of our time, which also is one of the least known.
At the same time, through AUSMAP, we are supporting a worldwide cohort of scientists studying the microplastics issue. AUSMAP’s ground-breaking research provides data without which the world’s leaders cannot know what remedial action will be most effective to counter what is in fact a terrifying threat to marine and human life.
A defining virtue of AUSMAP’s approach, one that makes it unique in the domain of microplastics research worldwide, is its total focus on quality assurance and the reliability of data gathered – going to the validity of the science. Its community training programs and ongoing oversight are remarkable. Its layered strategies, devolving through several levels down to the grassroots, are clearly defined and highly effective. To us, AUSMAP serves as an exemplar citizen science project that we encourage others to follow.
I would not like to finish without mentioning the amazing dedication, enthusiasm and helpfulness of the AUSMAP leadership team, which inspires us to greater efforts and without which our microplastics effort could never be successful.
President and Co-Founder - Living Ocean Incorporated
"By participating with AUSMAP I have the opportunity for so many conversations with folks that may have no idea that this problem exists. As a person who researches microplastic pollution, it is so important to feel effective and take opportunities to make meaningful change. The greatest change needed is in general social behaviour. I can spend my lifetime cleaning beaches and picking up trash, making changes in my personal behaviours to use less plastic. However, this will not make a big difference.
By volunteering with AUSMAP I have a tremendous opportunity to amplify my actions, by sharing my passion for a beautiful, pristine ocean and sustainable choices in lifestyle. Participating in a program that shares so readily with children provides so much opportunity for a groundswell of change.
I am very grateful to the AUSMAP team for their work creating this program and look forward to the body of data being created. So that when we do enact change in order to reduce microplastic pollution, we can confirm the merit of our actions."
Owner Ocean Remedy & Volunteer AUSMAP
"Within my role within Sydney’s Northern Beaches Council, Coastal Environment Centre (CEC), the AUSMAP program has clearly enabled more students and teachers to participate in STEM programs. Just in 2019, over 350 students from public, catholic and independent high schools, scientifically surveyed ten beaches, they identified and removed over 1170 microplastic particles and over 2000 macro litter items. Each student becomes aware of the presence and impact of plastic pollution on their beach. I’ve observed how this personal knowledge changes attitudes and behaviour.
In addition, the teachers overwhelmingly love and appreciate the opportunity for their students to be involved in the AUSMAP program. Two local high schools have even adopted the AUSMAP program and are using it as a springboard into a STEM unit for their whole Year 7 or Year 9 cohort. This has the added benefit of increased, across faculty training within high schools, as Mathematics teachers participate in the scientific field surveys and Geography and Science teachers assist their students in the data graphing and analysis after the field trip. By involving students in this outstanding AUSMAP program, students are then motivated to choose Science and Mathematics electives in Year 11 and pursue a STEM career.
The AUSMAP program clearly has had a significant impact this far and is contributing to empowering change in the community. As a specific example, I have assisted an Environment Club from a local high school to adopt and survey a lagoon shoreline over the past three years. As a result of their initial scientific surveys, their site has been identified by AUSMAP as a “microplastic hot spot” and this result has contributed to a grant so that AUSMAP, Council and other stakeholders including the Environment club students, can target and reduce plastic pollution in the catchment of this coastal lagoon."
Senior Educator Coastal Environment Centre - Northern Beaches Council