Press Release for Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Coastal Florida Universities Team Up to Fight Ocean Plastic Pollution
Media Relations Director
University of North Florida
University of North Florida (UNF) and Eckerd College have received a $150,000
award from the NOAA Marine Debris Program to reduce single-use plastic
consumption and foster long-term pro-environmental behaviors among
undergraduates in coastal communities. The goal is to reduce generation of marine
debris in those areas over time.
project will integrate education and outreach initiatives to increase
awareness, affect attitudes and beliefs, and encourage behavior changes among
members of the UNF campus community regarding reducing plastic consumption.
plastics are well-documented to be one of the major sources of plastic debris
in the ocean. Improperly disposed plastic items, and even those placed in
recycling or garbage bins, can be blown by wind or washed by rain and
eventually enter the marine environment. It is essential to decrease or
eliminate consumption of single-use plastic items to prevent this pollution
from entering the ocean.
College launched the Reduce Single-Use project in 2018 at its St. Petersburg
campus near the Gulf Coast. This new study is a partnership that builds off the
initial findings and attempts to replicate the project on UNF’s campus near the
Atlantic Ocean as it has richer diversity and provides a unique opportunity to
learn how to reduce single-use plastic on a larger scale.
this new phase of the project on the UNF campus, participation in multiple week-long
Plastic Reduction Challenges will lead to increased individual accountability
and commitment via an easy-to-use smartphone app. Participants will log each
use and refusal of single-use plastic and receive real-time feedback on behavior.
support of the UNF Environmental Center, a series of workshops, lectures, beach
cleanup activities and other events will also take place during the project to
increase plastic reduction awareness and encourage sustainable behaviors. UNF
and Eckerd College will then analyze the data collected from the application, as
well as surveys from the activities, to further understanding consumption
researchers include Dr. Erin Largo-Wight, public health professor, and Dr.
Heather Barnes Truelove, psychology associate professor, who will work together
to manage the project at UNF. This will include coordinating study design,
participant recruitment, data collection and analysis, reporting, graduate
assistant supervision, challenge events, education and outreach initiatives,
and manuscript preparation/submission. In addition, James W. Taylor, UNF
Environmental Center assistant director, will support and facilitate the
research team and cultivate student involvement.
has conducted research in applied environmental health promotion for over 15
years, including testing the determinants of environmental behaviors and
evaluating the impact of environmental and stewardship behavior change programs
and education. She also serves as the UNF Environmental Center director, where
she oversees academic initiatives, student engagement programs, professional
development scholarships, and faculty research in environmental issues.
expertise is in the psychological dimensions of environmental behavior and has worked
on several federally funded projects related to environmental behavior.
Truelove has extensive experience supervising undergraduate and graduate
research projects involving experimental and survey procedures related to
pro-environmental behavior, including projects relating to reduction of
single-use plastic straws, use of reusable water bottles, and support for
plastic reduction policies.
will coordinate the outreach/education at UNF and mentor the student
researchers and scholars who will participate in this project as part of UNF’s
innovative Environmental Center Leadership Program.
College will continue to manage the grant, run surveys, conduct challenges and
outreach activities, as well as collect and analyze the data received from the
UNF campus, by researchers including Dr. Amy NS Siuda, Marine Science; Dr.
Shannon Gowans, Marine Science and Biology; Evan Bollier, Office of
Sustainability; Dr. Kelly Debure, Computer Science; and Dr. Jesse Sherry, Environmental
outreach project is set to be completed near fall 2022.