Sea Watchers: Microplastic Watchers

Latest update May 31, 2018 Started on September 25, 2016

‘Microplastic Watchers’ is a project that monitors micro- and mesoplastic abundance, distribution, and composition in beaches, involving educational community and associations in scientific research.

September 25, 2016
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Collaborators I

Today we would like to introduce to you another of the vital parts of this project, that together with the entire educational community and associations make this project a reality, the Collaborators. In this first post of collaborators, we present you the Maritime Museum of Barcelona (MMB), in which they will present us the closing event of the project Sea Watchers – Plastic 0 of the school year 2017-2018.

Maritime Museum of Barcelona

On May 31st 2018, the closing event of the 2017-2018 Observadors de la Platja (Beach Observers) program took place in the Maritime Museum of Barcelona, with the participation of 97 students from 6 different schools from Barcelona (Barcelona), Gavà (Barcelona), Blanes (Girona) and Tordera (Barcelona). Students shared their works related to microplastic analysis: scientific posters showing analytical research referred to the amount and typology of plastics; mystery novels set in the beach; micro-stories and poetry; discovery experiments related to seas and oceans salinity...

Students showed great participation and interest towards the works from the rest of schools. All speeches underlined the need of caring for the marine environment: we are all responsible if we want a sea without plastics. Recycling is imperative, and students from Blanes Mossèn Joan Batlle School made that clear by means of a rap song they composed. Students from Gavà Mar Institute School presented a video clip with a message: everybody has something to do in order to prevent the presence of plastic on our beaches.

On the other hand, scientist Luis F. Ruiz-Orejón presented preliminary results of the presence of microplastics and mesoplastics on beaches. These results were obtained from the data collected by schools in different beaches, comparing them in a time basis. First conclusions show that presence of microplastic particles per square meter is higher in Barceloneta beach (Barcelona) than in Blanes beach. There are two possible interpretations for that fact: Barcelona beach is more populated than Blanes beach during this time period, and also Barcelona sand is thinner than that on Blanes.

The Observadors de la Platja (Beach Observers) project is promoted by the Maritime Museu of Barcelona, with the collaboration of Observadors del Mar (Sea Watchers), a citizen science platform coordinated by the Institut de Ciències del Mar (Institute of Marine Sciences), the Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes (Blanes Centre for Advanced Studies) and the Institut Mediterrani d'Estudis Avançats (Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies). All these institutions are part of the Centre Superior d’Investigacions Científiques (The Spanish National Research Council).

Beyond sampling...Empowering citizens!

Microplastic Watchers project is also involved with Barceloneta neighborhood, where people live close and connected to the beach and the sea. Under the motto "Barceloneta diu Plàstic 0" (Barceloneta says Plastic 0) the 6th of may 2017 we celebrated an act with schools and neighbors from Barceloneta, to demonstrate our compromise with citizen science and against plastic pollution in our beaches. Altogether, we performed a sampling to collect enough data and evidence to report microplastic presence in all the world, starting in Barceloneta.

We aim to research with society, raise awareness to change habits and reduce the use of plastics in our daily lives. This is a commitment that the project maintains and reinforces each year of expedition.

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The Mediterranean Sea and plastic pollution

The societies settled in the Mediterranean basin have been closely linked historically, culturally and economically to the sea and the coastline it bathes. Precisely, this link has lasted over time and promoted an increase in activities and population density through the first kilometers of coastline, subjecting the marine and coastal ecosystems of the Mediterranean Sea to a high anthropic pressure (human origin).

Plastic pollution is one of the most important threats that has been detected in recent decades and, the situation in the Mediterranean could potentially be more serious as it is a semi-enclosed sea with limited renewal of its waters. On the surface of the Mediterranean Sea, it has been estimated that around 1500 tons are currently accumulated, consisting predominantly of microplastics (particles smaller than 5 mm); however, the origin of this plastic debris mostly derives from land-based sources.

The Mediterranean has approximately 46000 km of coastline, which is one of the main points of entry of plastic debris into the sea, but also of accumulation of waste that is transported from other points of origin by the action of currents and prevailing winds. Despite this, there is still a need for research into the dynamics of accumulation and the variation over time that plastic waste produces in coastal ecosystems. The students and many citizen volunteers contribute their grain of sand through the citizen science project 'Seawatchers-Plastic 0' to contribute to the knowledge of the problem in these areas.

Are you concerned about that? Join us or follow us in OpenExplorer

Image attributions: O H 237 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons.*


Pilot test

The implementation of the 'Sea Watchers-Plastic 0' project in schools started with a pilot test in a secondary school at Badalona (Barcelona) in 2016. The students sampled plastics debris on the beach of this locality and geolocated the samples to upload the information to the ‘Sea Watchers’ citizen science platform. In addition to the sampling and analysis of the samples, the students developed an awareness campaign in the neighborhoods and public market of Badalona using the results obtained in the samples.

The wide and positive response of students and teachers were the drivers for the further expansion and development of the project in the following years.

Expedition Background

‘Microplastic Watchers’ (formerly known as Sea Watchers-Plastic 0) monitoring started in 2016 and involved around 1500 students from more than 25 schools and high-schools in seasonal beach sampling and plastic debris analyses under training and mentorship of scientists during the last year. Currently, a total of 883 samples from 93 surveys have already been validated in several locations in the east coast of Spain (NW Mediterranean) through this citizen science platform. The scientific protocol has been adapted to obtain comparable data and, at the same time to engage communities in environmental monitoring and to build on scientific and social connections, to promote students cooperative and autonomous work, and to foster the learning of scientific skills.

'Microplastic Watchers' is a project in continuous development that is expected to incorporate new schools and associations in the next year to collect valuable data in other coastal areas. In addition, in the upcoming courses we will include an analysis of perceptions and behaviors around plastics and microplastics among all future participants. ‘Sea Watchers’ also collects data on plastic litter observed in ecosystems from individual observations that are incorporated into the open data map.


Great project, Luis.

Thank you so much, David.

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