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PlastiX-Snow: A Citizen Science Project to Identify Microplastics in Snow
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  • Laurel Zaima,
  • Marco Tedesco,
  • Margie Turrin,
  • Patrick Alexander,
  • Joaquim Goes,
  • Kali McKee
Laurel Zaima
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Marco Tedesco
Columbia University
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Margie Turrin
LDEO of Columbia University
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Patrick Alexander
Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University
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Joaquim Goes
Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
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Kali McKee
Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
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Microplastics have become ubiquitous in all reaches of the world. Due to their small size, low density, and environmental persistence, they are transported throughout the Earth's system. Despite its importance, little is known about microplastic transport and deposition, especially by snow particles, and most people are not aware of the extent of the problem. The PlastiX-Snow Citizen Science Project aims to fill these research and informational gaps using crowd-sourcing to achieve scientific research outputs, educational programming, and active outreach and engagement. We will initially measure the spatial distribution of snow deposited microplastics throughout a region in New York State and expand nationally using community partners. As trained partners, the Snow Ambassadors will inform the local community about microplastics, recruit participants, and assist in leading trainings. As nodes of the project, they will expand the reach to a large demographic of people across the country, including both life-long learners and school groups. Citizen scientists will collect, examine, and report the snow-deposited microplastics in their own backyard. The PlastiX-Snow team also will collect snowmelt samples from participants to robustly analyze the microplastics at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. According to a National Academy of Sciences, a primary concern regarding citizen science projects is the lack of engagement and feedback to the participants of the program's findings. We specifically address these challenges by actively and continually engaging our participants and partners through direct and virtual public programming, classroom visits, media, newsletters, and an interactive website. PlastiX-Snow goals are to 1. Collect data for a deeper understanding of microplastics disseminated by snow, 2. Teach the public about the dangers of microplastics and potential solutions, 3. Engage communities, students, educators, and the public to participate in groundbreaking, relevant scientific research. We aim to shed light on the severity of microplastic pollution, build a bridge between the public and the scientific community, connect citizen scientists to their natural environment through field work, and encourage them to serve as environmental stewards and leaders in their own communities.