In Media: $5.2+M Awarded to NY Sea Grant to Address Marine Debris
Marine Debris - News

New federal funding supports four Sea Grant projects focusing on ways to reduce plastic and other types of pollution in New York’s coastal and river waterways. Credit: Judy Benson, Connecticut Sea Grant

— Published by Stony Brook University's SBU News

May 2, 2023 — More than $5.2 million in funding to be administered at Stony Brook University will support New York Sea Grant’s (NYSG) efforts to carry out community action and research activities to reduce plastic and other types of pollution in the state’s coastal and river waterways.

Projects of the NYSG-funded teams — each led by principal investigators at universities and organizations who will work side-by-side with NYSG extension professionals — will focus on:

1. Investigating advanced filtration techniques;
2. Removing stray plastics from streams and rivers;
3. Installing and studying traps to keep litter from entering storm drains in cities;
4. Determining how to keep clothing from releasing threads of plastic into the environment.

“Land-based sources of debris are impacting our shorelines and beaches, our aquatic life, and our waters,” said Kathy Bunting-Howarth, associate director of NYSG. “Some of this debris is microscopic. These microplastics and microfibers are entering our ecosystems and our bodies and impacting us in ways that we do not fully understand.” With that, Bunting-Howarth adds that these projects will explore ways to prevent debris from entering our waterways, from stormwater and clothes washing, as well as test technologies to capture the debris that’s already escaped into the waters.

Christy Tyler, an environmental scientist at Rochester Institute of Technology, will lead a team to build a community network focused on preventing and cleaning up debris that gets into the Rochester Embayment of Lake Ontario. Investigators will expand their placements of “Littatraps,” mesh baskets installed in stormwater catch basins. Those engaged in the project will include local youth in education, data collection, debris clean up and removal, leadership and civic action.

In a partner project with the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium and Columbia University’s Eco Ambassador program, NYSG will hire fellows over the next two summers via Sea Grant’s Community Engaged Internship Program to assist with a community science project. “Plastic pollution is certainly a concern for many people in New York City,” said Lillit Genovese, a NYSG Long Island Sound Study outreach coordinator, adding that with this new funding, “students will visit Long Island Sound, learn about the impacts of marine debris, and how we can each work together to keep our estuary healthy.”

The aim of a study led by principal investigators Nathaniel Banks and Yidian Liu, co-founders of PolyGone Systems, is to remove aquatic microplastic debris within the Hudson River Watershed by using new aquatic filtration technology that could allow them to monitor and sequester microplastics, the tiny polymer pollutants found in water and on land. If successful, the team would be validating an affordable solution to improve water quality in the region and beyond.

Washing our clothes tends to shed microplastics: tiny, synthetic, environmentally harmful particles. In a fourth study, “The overarching goal is to plug the leak of microplastics and nanoplastics into our marine environments from domestic and commercial laundries,” said Beizhan Yan, Lamont Associate Research Professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. The use of suitable filtration techniques at the source point of laundry machines could offer a practical and immediate solution to stop plastic pollution.

This funding, supported via the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, is part of a larger $27 million nationwide funding effort by NOAA, Sea Grant’s parent organization, to address the prevention and removal of debris in marine and Great Lakes environments.

For more, read the complete NYSG press release.

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly.

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