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Trash Detectives Dump Art Into Biscayne Bay — for Science

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Art is rarely made with the intention of throwing it away. But that’s the mission of Trash Detectives, a project copresented by the Frost Museum of Science and the Miami Science Barge that will launch during DWNTWN Art Days this Saturday and Sunday.

DWNTWN Art Days — a three-day civic project aimed at highlighting downtown Miami’s museums, history, theaters, public spaces, places, and culture — features more than 70 events. Trash Detectives, one of the many free events during DWNTWN Art Days, encourages participants to board the Miami Science Barge, docked in Biscayne Bay, and doodle, sketch, and draw on small waterproof cards that will be tossed into the bay in the name of science.

Trash Detectives is actually part of a larger research initiative. Chelle King, exhibit developer for the Frost Museum of Science, explains, “The study was designed in response to a request from Vizcaya Museum & Gardens to understand why a high volume of debris is frequently deposited at their waterfront.”

As a result, Vizcaya, the Frost Museum of Science, and the University of Miami’s Consortium for Advanced Research on Transport of Hydrocarbon in the Environment (CARTHE) research team designed the Biscayne Bay Drift Card Study. This collaborative initiative, which runs from the launch Trash Detectives through June 2017, will study how manmade debris and natural yet harmful algae move throughout South Florida’s waterways due to wind and ocean currents.

“Drift cards are thin, biodegradable pieces of wood colored with bright nontoxic paint that will be used by scientists to learn more about how ocean currents in the bay transport oil, marine debris, and other pollutants," King explains. "Each card is coded to be identified by the project team where it was deployed.”

She continues, “Additionally, the drift cards are labeled with information that introduces the project and instructs the finder how to report where it was found. By tracking the location where drift cards are released and found, we will learn how the currents distribute debris in Biscayne Bay.”

Four times over the course of the next year, the CARTHE-led team will launch these drift cards into the water via eight sites across northern Biscayne Bay. If locals find a card anywhere along the Miami-Dade County shoreline, the research consortium requests that they report it – noting the date, time, and location of the discovery; taking a photo; and either emailing the information to BayDriftMiami@gmail.com or posting it on Instagram with the hashtag #BayDrift.

Aboard the barge, which opened this year on Earth Day, artists, community members, and both professional and citizen scientists will join forces this weekend to learn about and participate in this creative research project.

"For a while, Miami has viewed itself as an artistic city and has recently adopted science and technology into its identity. Many tend to separate the pursuits of art and science, but there is great potential in using the two together," King and Alissa Farina, program manager for the Miami Science Barge, said in a statement. "Bringing the expression of art to a scientific experiment makes science more understandable and accessible to the community. People learn and process information in different ways, and integrating art into the classroom can help make science tangible.”

Trash Detectives
Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, September 10, and Sunday, September 11, at the Miami Science Barge, 1075 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Entry is free. Call 305-434-9560 or visit dwntwnartdays.com.

If you see a drift card, send a message to the Biscayne Bay Drift Card Study via BayDriftMiami@gmail.com with the date, time, and location of the finding, as well as a photo. Or post it on Instagram with the hashtag #BayDrift.

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