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Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Bay Drift

  • Bay Drift

Biscayne Bay Drift Card Study

Vizcaya is talking trash.

In 2016, Vizcaya approached the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science and CARTHE, a team of ocean scientists at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science to start a conversation about trash and pollution at Vizcaya.

Together we launched an experiment, The Biscayne Bay Drift Card Study (#BayDrift), to identify the origin of the trash washing up into the basin of the Barge and mangroves around Vizcaya as well as the rest of Biscayne Bay.

How #BayDrift works:

Throughout the year, the Bay Drift team conducts 4 experiments, in different seasons and during different tides. At each experiment small wooden drift cards (stamped with instructions on how to report them when found) were released by school students and members of the community. Additionally, CARTHE released GPS-equipped biodegradable drifters, designed to capture accurate tracks as they move through the bay.

What we’ve learned:

Data tracks reveal how currents and tides move debris around Biscayne Bay. Though scientists are still analyzing the data, it is clear that trash released in the bay, remains in the bay. Some of the satellite tracked drifters did leave the bay and followed the Gulf Stream into the North Atlantic, but the majority swirled through Biscayne Bay.

Bringing community together:

One of the most important aspects of this study is connecting people through citizen science. Over a dozen environmental organizations and community agencies have joined Vizcaya and CARTHE to conduct the experiments. Hundreds of school students and community members have volunteered to release drift cards and dozens of citizen scientists have recovered and reported drift cards. The project has raised awareness about ocean science, the effects of pollution and provided an opportunity for community organizations to work together, to keep South Florida’s bays and oceans clean.

Art for the Sake of Science:

Throughout the year, Vizcaya will host programs to decorate drift cards and share updates about the project.

While it may seem that decorating the drift cards is just a “nice touch,” it actually serves as a critical component for #BayDrift. If drift cards are left plain, they are more likely to be overlooked once they’ve washed up along the shorelines of Miami-Dade County. Painting eye-catching drift cards in bright colors and decorated with community-made art makes them more likely to be picked up and reported.

The Data:

Head over to CARTHE’s #BayDrift page to explore the data from each of the experiments. The page is updated after each drift card release, so be sure to check back regularly and to explore #BayDrift on Instagram for photos!