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Urban Ocean: The Mission to Clean Up Marine Debris

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration partners with many non-governmental organizations across the country such as Ocean Conservancy, universities, and private companies to work on their Marine Debris Action Plan. The action plan’s goal is to identify, determine sources, assess, prevent, reduce, and remove marine debris. They fund over 160 projects at multiple levels. At the local level, organizations apply for local grants and use regional coordinators to support the plan. At the national level, organizations compete for grants and shoreline monitoring projects become available as well. Then there is the international level where the Ocean Conservancy’s Urban Ocean Project would fall under.

Katie Browder, who works at Ocean Conservancy, said, “they are working to raise awareness in urban cities.” Katie Browder explains how Urban Ocean is working to make circular and sustainable economies in cities tangible. Urban Ocean connects cities with national and international policy discussions and the private sector to inform better decisions on a sustainable community. This Plan helps by building a coalition of cities that practice circular economy and commit to jointly solving problems such as waste management and ocean plastics. They then provide a platform for cities to learn, inspire, and support others on their journeys to sustainability.

The Ocean Conservancy also works with many colleges and universities. Dr. Jenna Jambeck from the University of Georgia was one of the panelists on this webinar and currently partners with the Ocean Conservancy. Dr. Jambeck focuses her research on circulatory informatics. Circulatory informatics is a model that provides data to aid decision-making to reduce single-use plastics going into the environment, and increase circular materials management. Dr. Jambeck uses this model to research and investigate what kind of single-use plastics a certain city primarily uses and helps come up with alternatives for them. Some issues that the researchers ran into were that many cities around the world struggle with waste management, and how to engage the local government to be proactive. According to Dr. Jambeck, most cities use single-use plastics because of their low cost and convenience. After Dr. Jambeck identifies cities in need of help, the Ocean Conservancy then steps in to point them in the right direction by giving them resources to make better informed decisions.

This webinar was very fascinating and is very similar to what we are working on at Seaside Sustainability. The Marine Science and Education team is currently working with NOAA to conduct our own case study to enact the Marine Debris Action Plan in Northwest Massachusetts. All the information provided by the panelists will help us reach our goal of reducing single-use plastics and building a sustainable future.


Carr, S. (n.d.). Urban ocean: Partnering to advance clean, healthy cities for clean, healthy seas. OCTO Open Communications for the Ocean. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from


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