Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

December 2017 Speaker

Dr. Maia McGuire, UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant Agent.

Program:  Microplastics: What's the Big Deal?

Plastic pollution in the oceans is an increasing environmental problem. Microplastics (plastic pieces smaller than 5 mm in size) are being found in fish and invertebrates. Where do they come from? Why do we care? What can we do about it? The Florida Microplastic Awareness Project aims to raise awareness about microplastics, in part by having citizen scientists collect and analyze coastal water samples for the presence of microplastics.

Data from the project's first two years will be presented, along with information that has been learned about people's willingness to change their behavior and reduce their production of plastic waste.

Bio:  Dr. Maia McGuire grew up on the islands of Bermuda where she developed an interest in marine biology at an early age. She worked at the public aquarium, with the Division of Fisheries and at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research during her teenage years. She received a BS in marine biology from Florida Institute of Technology, and a PhD in marine biology from the University of Miami. She spent two years teaching high school sciences in St. Lucie County and a year at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution conducting postdoctoral research.

In 2001, she joined the Florida Sea Grant Extension Program at the University of Florida. As a Sea Grant extension agent, she conducts informal education programs on topics including marine debris, climate change, and invasive species, and protecting coastal habitats. She teaches programs for youth and adults and has written three elementary curricula (on manatees, cetaceans--whales and dolphins, and sea turtles). In 2005, she was awarded the Marine Science Educator of the Year award by the Florida Marine Science Educators Association. In 2014, she was given the Don Sweat Award by Florida Sea Grant, and in 2015 she was named Conservation Educator of the Year by the Florida Wildlife Federation. She is the immediate past-chair of the National Sea Grant Education Network.

In 2015, McGuire was awarded a NOAA Marine Debris Outreach and Education grant to start the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project. This citizen science project’s goal is to raise awareness about the sources of and threats posed by microplastics in the coastal environment. Volunteers are collecting and analyzing coastal water samples around the state, as well as teaching people how to reduce their contribution to the plastic problem. The project’s website is