Vizcaya is Talking Trash

Baydrift drift card in the water


Where’s that trash coming from?

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.

Tracking the trash.

Over three years, the Bay Drift team conducted 4 experiments each year, 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 moved through the bay.

Data tracks reveal how currents and tides move debris around Biscayne 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. It is clear that most trash released in the bay, remains in the bay. 

A Story Map of #BayDrift Data

This study was instrumental in understanding that most of the debris and trash that washes up on Vizcaya’s and Miami’s shorelines comes from all of us. Head over to this #BayDrift page to explore the data from each of the experiments. 

Citizen-scientists make all the difference.

One of the most important aspects of this study was connecting people through citizen science. Over a dozen environmental organizations and community agencies joined Vizcaya and CARTHE to conduct the experiments. Hundreds of school students and community members 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.

What can I do to affect change?

Here are simple ways you can help keep our shorelines clean:

-Make sure all your trash goes to the appropriate waste or recycling bin. Loose trash ends up in storm water drains that are connected to large bodies of water, such as Biscayne Bay.

-Participate in beach or shoreline cleanups. Come to Vizcaya to help remove trash and debris from the mangrove forest. 


Help preserve this National Historic Landmark.


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