Biscayne Bay Drift Card Study
Understanding our local ocean currents and how trash and other pollutants are transported
In early 2016, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens and Frost Science Museum, approached a team of CARTHE scientists at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School to see if they could shed light on the increasing problem of marine debris. Specifically, they wanted to find the origin of the trash washing up into the mangroves around Vizcaya and the rest of Biscayne Bay. The research team known as CARTHE (the Consortium for Advanced Research on the Transport of Hydrocarbon in the Environment) did not have an immediate answer, but did have the expertise and tools to design and develop a citizen science research project.
With a team of community organizations, students, and volunteers, the Biscayne Bay Drift Card Study (#BayDrift) was launched. The mission: deploy, capture and analyze real-time data collected by GPS-equipped ocean drifters and citizen scientist decorated drift cards to understand where the trash may be coming from.
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.
The Project Team coordinates quarterly deployments of drift cards and GPS-equipped drifters with scientists, students, families and members of our local community in 8-10 locations across Biscayne Bay. As a result of the currents, drift cards might be found anywhere along Miami-Dade county coastline and beyond!
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 by scientists at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science to better understand the circulation of current in Biscayne Bay, which will help us develop solutions to decrease the trash and debris in the Bay and along our shoreline. See maps below for drift card recovery sites from year 1 of Bay Drift.
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.
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)
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
Frost Science Museum
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Dranoff 2 Piano Foundation-Piano Slam
Miami Science Barge
Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves
Bill Baggs State Park
International Seakeepers Society
Key Biscayne Citizen Science Project
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
St. Stephen’s School
South Pointe Elementary
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