International Volunteer Citizen Scientists Team Up With Timucuan Preserve Partners

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Date: July 18, 2016
Contact: Dan Tardona, 904-221-5568

Tiny plastic particles (called microplastics by scientists) are invading our coastal environment as well as the world's oceans.  The Jacksonville chapter of CISV, a global organization that educates and inspires action for a more just and peaceful world has brought a group of 19 volunteers from 10 countries, including the United States to assist the National Park Service, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, Timucuan Parks Foundation and the Northeast Florida Aquatic Preserves conduct a microplastics study.

The group will collect sediment and water samples from in and around the Timucuan Preserve and then analyze the samples at the Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute to determine the presence of microplastics.  The experience will provide members of the group with new skills as well as an awareness of how we all impact our precious natural resources. At the same time, they will be helping local scientists get a better idea of where microplastics are affecting our waterways and coastal areas. During the week of July 18 through July 20, CISV citizen volunteers will be conducting this work alongside members of the agencies mentioned.

Scientists have recognized that most plastics enter the ocean from the land.  Much of the plastic is from things we all use on a daily basis. Plastic cups and soda bottles are what most of us may think of, but there are many surprising sources as well. Some personal care items such as body washes, facial scrubs and even toothpaste contain microbeads.  Dr. Maia McGuire, a Florida Sea Grant Extension agent is quick to tell you about the Florida Microplastics Awareness Project (FMAP).  "It is a citizen scientist project that was funded in 2015 by an outreach and education grant from NOAA's Marine Debris Program. The goal is to bring awareness, education and opportunity for volunteers to collect coastal water samples, filter them and look for microplastics.  The idea is to demonstrate to members of our community how plastics never biodegrade—they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces. These microplastics are then accidentally eaten by marine life, threatening their health."

The data collected by the CISV volunteers will be put into the FMAP database as well as help the National Park Service manage resources with the Timucuan Preserve. Staff of the Timucuan Preserve, the Riverkeeper and other partner agencies will then help spread the word about how all members of the Jacksonville community can help manage this pollutant in many ways, from choosing the products they may buy and use, to becoming hands-on citizen scientists.

Superintendent of the Timucuan Preserve, Chris Hughes expressed his appreciation for this team effort and desire to expand citizen science efforts in the Timucuan Preserve and the Jacksonville community.

"It is my hope that an effort like this is the beginning of a community effort, by our local citizens, to become aware of this growing environmental issue. Microplastics in the environment is an issue that our neighbors as citizen scientists can help us understand and hence develop strategies to protect the valuable natural and recreational resources of the Timucuan Preserve and the Jacksonville community as a whole.

Lisa Taylor of CISV Jacksonville Chapter echoes those same sentiments, adding "this is a win-win situation for the local CISV chapter international volunteers and the National Park Service. Meaningful learning experiences are provided to the CISV citizen scientists while at the same time making important contributions to the scientific efforts of scientists and the National Park Service missions to protect Timucuan Preserve and northeast Florida waterways and coastal natural resources we all enjoy. Our international volunteers will be in Jacksonville for 18 days exploring issues related to sustainable development and are excited to begin with this project."

About CISV Jacksonville: Founded in 1950, CISV ( is a global organization that educates and inspires action for a more just and peaceful world through international educational programs, primarily for youth.CISV has 1 program targeted at adults called International Peoples Project or IPP.  These are 2-3 week volunteer projects where adults (age 19+) can work on a community project organized by the local CISV Chapter. These volunteers helping with this microplastics study are participating in CISV Jacksonville's IPP, the only IPP being held in the USA this year.The Jacksonville Chapter of CISV ( was founded in 1976 and each summer sends about 50 Jacksonville youth to international camps and programs and hosts an international program here in Jacksonville.

The Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is Jacksonville's National Park. With many sites to choose from, you can find a great place to relax or learn. Visitor centers are located at Fort Caroline National Memorial, Kingsley Plantation, and the Ribault Club. There are many places to explore. For more ideas call 904.641.7155.

Last updated: July 17, 2016

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