PI Login

Bay Drift

Biscayne Bay Drift Card Study


Understanding our local ocean currents and how trash and other pollutants are transported


Marine debris, oil, sediment, larval fish, and even boaters are transported by the currents that move into and within Biscayne Bay. Computer models and previous localized experiments give an estimate of how those currents behave but we wish to add new observational data to the existing models in order to give the greater Miami area a better sense of how the currents are effecting the way particles move in Biscayne Bay.Have you seen our drift cards?

Scientists rely on the public to find the drift cards along the beaches, shore or floating in Biscayne Bay.  If you find one, please follow the instructions on the card and report your discovery!  We need the date, time, and location (and photo if possible) of where the card was found.



The original idea for this project arose when Vizcaya Museum and Gardens approached researchers at the University of Miami-based ocean currents consortium, CARTHE (Consortium forAdvanced Research on Transport ofHydrocarbon in the Environment) to discuss the large amount of debris they regularly find in their mangroves and along their shore line. Where is the trash coming from? CARTHE could not provide a specific answer, so we partnered with Vizcaya and Frost Science to develop the Biscayne Bay Drift Card Study.ryan_stone_r9a0049

While in the planning stages for this project, South Florida was dealing with a tritium leak from the Turkey Point nuclear power plant, a waste water leak from an old pipe near downtown Miami directly into our study area, as well as an enormous blue-green algae bloom prompting Governor Scott to declare a state of emergency for Martin, St. Lucie, Palm Beach, and Lee Counties.  A better understanding of the currents in these areas can assist decision makers and managers in addressing their response to such events.


From September 2016 to June 2017, the Project Team will coordinate quarterly deployments of drift cards and GPS-equipped drifters with scientists, students, families and members of our local community in 8 locations across northern Biscayne Bay (near downtown Miami). As a result of the currents, drift cards might be found anywhere along Miami-Dade county coastline and beyond!

img_2359 14305347_1158061117573494_1906798046732195325_o

Drift cards are small, eco-friendly wood cards that are brightly painted and float along the water’s surface, moved by the currents. Each card is coded so the Project Team can identify where it was deployed.  Additionally, the drift cards are labeled with information that introduces the project and instructs the finder how to report where it was found. By tracking the location where drift cards are released and found, we will learn how the currents distribute debris in Biscayne Bay.

All of the information about where and when drift cards are deployed and recovered will be used to develop a model generated by scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science that will help the partners and the Miami community better understand how debris moves with the current, which will help us develop solutions to decrease the trash and debris in Biscayne Bay and along our shoreline.  Once the models have been developed, we will share them with the public through programs sponsored by the partners and project team to better sustain our shorelines.


Additionally, the CARTHE biodegradable, GPS-equipped drifters provide precise tracks, every 5 minutes, as they float along with the currents.  Below is the animated tracks of the 20 drifters released on September 7 and 12, 2016.


Bay Drift drifter tracks Sept 7-27 from CARTHE on Vimeo.



Of the 320 drift cards released on September 12, 2016, 37 have been recovered and reported via #BayDrift or BayDriftMiami@gmail.com.  Click on the images below to see where the drift cards and drifters have gone. (Colored square indicates the launch location, Dots represent drift card recovery site, lines are the tracks of the GPS drifters)

Drift cards and Drifter tranks, Miami

Cards + drifters, Miami

Drifters from Miami to NC

Drifters, Miami to NC

Recovered Drift Card

Recovered Drift Cards



Miami River

Miami River

Miami Science Barge

Miami Science Barge

Little River

Little River

West Miami Beach Zoom

West Miami Beach Zoom

West Miami Beach Full

West Miami Beach Full

Miami Beach King Tide

Miami Beach King Tide


Partner Organizations:


Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

Frost Science Museum

Dranoff 2 Piano Foundation-Piano Slam

Miami Waterkeeper

Miami Science Barge

Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves

Surfrider Foundation


MAST Academy

Miami Country Day School

Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church School

Play & Learn Preschool

Miami Springs Middle School

Miami Northwestern Sr High School

Leisure City K-8 Center

Lamar Curry Middle School

Mater Grove Academy

     If you have any questions or if you’d like to get involved, please email BayDriftMiami@gmail.com.


Bay Drift Lesson Plan

An activity for middle or high school students on ocean currents, marine debris, and citizen science.  Click here to download.

Operation Coral Cascade

CARTHE provided scientific support for an environmental safety exercise executed by the University of Miami Department of Emergency Management on December 3, 2015. 35 local, state, federal agencies, private industry, and higher education collaborated on this well organized test. Our biodegradable, GPS-equipped drifters were released at the time of the exercise and provided data for 11 days. Some went east into the Gulf Stream, while others gradually drifted south through Biscayne Bay. For more information, please visit our blog: carthe.org/blog/?p=435

Operation Coral Cascade from CARTHE on Vimeo.