Puget Sound Microplastics Institute

Information about microplastics is available from these documents and from the links at the end of this page:

Puget Sound Microplastics Institute (PSMI) Overview

Launched in January 2011, the Puget Sound Microplastics Institute (PSMI) is a collaboration between University of Washington-Tacoma (UWT) and lead partner nonprofit organization Service, Education and Adventure (SEA).

Project partner University of Washington-Tacoma (UWT) is a global hub for microplastics research. In November 2010, UWT held the 2nd International Research Workshop on Microplastic Debris. Expert scientists from the US, Japan, Netherlands and the UK gathered to better understand the potential risk of microplastic debris to our ocean ecosystems. Julie Masura, MS, coordinates the science carried out through PSMI in her capacity as lecturer and researcher with the UWT Environmental Program.

Together UWT and SEA engage with a wide range of community partners to foster awareness of microplastics issues and enable youth and adults to participate with scientists in carrying out Puget Sound microplastics research. The PSMI works with schools, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, local stakeholders and community members of all ages.

Program Goal and Activities

Goal: Youth and adult participants will better understand and address the presence of plastics, including microplastics, in Puget Sound and other marine environments.

Activity Description: Youth and adult participants work with scientists to collect samples from the surface water, sea floor, and beaches. This includes students gathering water samples, guided by UWT researcher Julie Masura or research assistants, using a special collection net Julie adapted from a large-scale manta net. The water samples are processed in the laboratory by students or scientists to determine the amount of plastic in the samples. The PSMI coordinates sample collection by other community partners. Data are used to better understand the concentration and distribution of plastic in Puget Sound. Scientists and students work together to characterize the source and routes of microplastics, including discovering “garbage patches” in Puget Sound. Data results will be posted online using Google Maps technology and available to all.

In addition, SEA works with youth to educate them about healthy alternatives to plastics-based products. Program participants and citizens are encouraged to learn about plastics in consumer products and explore ways to reduce the amount of plastic debris introduced into the environment. Students engage in advocacy projects to learn about consumer products containing microplastics and explore consumer choices. Students also engage in meaningful “macroplastics” projects, in partnerships with state park rangers and others. During these projects, students collect plastics from beaches in the context of an in-depth introduction to learning about plastics in and around Puget Sound.

PSMI’s new net for filtering microplastic debris from the waters of Puget Sound


Microplastics Tow—Julie Masura, Oceanographer with the University of Washington Tacoma Environmental Science Program: A video of part of a presentation by Julie Masura during a tow

Microplastic = macroproblem: A feature article on the UWT website.

Rising tide of micro-plastics plaguing the seas: Another short article about Microplastics fromNew Scientist magazine

Microplastics: Wikipedia article about microplastics with lots of good information

‘Microplastics’ may pose previously unrecognized pollution threat: A short article with a couple of interesting pictures of microplastics under an electron microscope

Proceedings of the GESAMP International Workshop on Microplastic particles as a vector in transporting persistent, bioaccumulating and toxic substances in the ocean: An extraordinarily in-depth report. The results of a worldwide conference held in Paris about microplastics acting as a means of transporting persistant organic pollutants

Microplastics contaminated by pollutants in ocean waters can affect food chain: An article about microplastics acting as a vector for persistant organic pollutants (such as DDT and PCBs)

‘Microplastics’ eyed as marine pollutants: An MSNBC article about microplastics

Micro-plastic pollution in San Juans’ waters: An article about microplastics in the San Juan Islands, with a focus on how they might affect orcas

Emerging ocean concern: microplastics: An article about microplastics and the Foss waterway.

Mediterranean Sea may be polluted with microplastics: An article from

Prevalence of microplastics in Singapore’s coastal marine environment A journal article about microplastics in Singapore

Microplastics magnified under microscope from name brand cosmetic products

Bag it: Is your life too plastic? This is the educator’s page for this site

Albatross: A PowerPoint presentation showing the effects of marine plastics on albatrosses and other species

Algalita Marine Research Foundation: This site includes the 5 Gyres Blog with regular updates on plastics pollution in the oceans.

Sources and distribution of marine microplastics, from the Center for Urban Waters

Little plastic pieces and our marine life, an article about this project from Northwest Public Radio

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