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FY2024-2025 National Sea Grant BIL Marine Debris Challenge Competition




September 13, 2023



March 27, 2024




Award Floor:



Match Required?





Entity Types:

Exclusive - See Details

This opportunity is open to any person or group within the United States or its territories, as well as tribal nations within those geographies. Applicants must submit proposals in partnership with a relevant Sea Grant program. Please note that it is not a requirement that investigators, including the PI, are part of a Sea Grant program. Contact information for Sea Grant programs can be found at: If you need further assistance in identifying a program to partner with, please contact one of the Sea Grant Marine Debris Team listed below in Section VII. Agency Contacts. Federal agencies and their personnel are not permitted to receive federal funding under this competition; however, federal scientists and other employees can serve as uncompensated partners or co-Principal Investigators on applications. Federal labs and offices can also make available specialized expertise, facilities, or equipment to applicants but cannot be compensated under this competition for their use. The National Sea Grant College Program champions diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and accessibility (DEIJA) by recruiting, retaining, and preparing a diverse workforce, and proactively engaging and serving the diverse populations of coastal communities. Sea Grant is committed to building inclusive research, extension, communication, and education programs that serve people with unique backgrounds, circumstances, needs, perspectives, and ways of thinking. We encourage applicants of all ages, races, ethnicities, national origins, gender identities, sexual orientations, disabilities, cultures, religions, citizenship types, marital statuses, education levels, job classifications, veteran status types, income, and socioeconomic status types to apply for this opportunity.




Source Type:


NOAA works through Sea Grant institutions to increase the understanding, assessment, development, management, utilization, and conservation of the Nations ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources by providing assistance to promote a strong educational base, responsive research and training activities, broad and prompt dissemination of knowledge and techniques, and multidisciplinary approaches to environmental problems, in accordance with 33 USC 1121(b). There are many types, sources, and causes of marine debris, defined by statute as "any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes" (15 C.F.R. 909.1). Marine debris has long been a significant issue and may include (but is not limited to) plastic waste, trash, derelict vessels, lost or discarded fishing gear, and microplastics. The mass production of plastics, and their ubiquity of application and use across every economic sector, has ultimately resulted in an inescapable global marine debris problem. The United States is the top generator of plastic waste in the world (Law 2020), with a per capita generation rate of 2.22 to 2.72 kg per person per day (EREF 2016, Powell and Chertow 2019, U.S. EPA 2021a). The management of solid plastic waste varies per state and local government and consists of landfilling, recycling, and incineration. An unquantified amount of waste, however, is mismanaged and leaked into the environment. Recognizing the imperative to address the fate of plastics into marine environments, in 2004, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy identified marine debris, a term used to describe a wide-range of aquatic-solid waste pollution, as a national ocean priority (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2021. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste). To strengthen efforts in prevention and mitigation, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), has directed NOAAs National Sea Grant College Program to execute $50.0 million over five years for the prevention and removal of marine debris. While plastics are a key focus, this work will also address other relevant types of marine debris, as appropriate. This work will complement broader NOAA efforts, particularly, the National Ocean Services Marine Debris Program, focused on active removal, cleanup, mitigation, and prevention of marine debris. Each Sea Grant program will determine and prioritize local needs and research-driven solutions that fully integrate the needs of historically underserved communities as defined by Executive Order 13985 (Section 2(b)). This competition will support innovative research to application (R2A) projects that will address the prevention and/or removal of marine debris and provide the potential for transformational behavior change. Research to application or R2A refers to research that transitions into tangible outputs. Example outputs include (but are not limited to) inventive prototypes, commercial products, specialized services, or cutting-edge tools. Big ideas and risk taking are encouraged. Planning and capacity building activities are allowed but must accompany subsequent implementation activities; the end result of these projects cannot be solely academic or non-tangible outputs (e.g., scientific publications, awareness/training). A strong application will clearly outline how the project will produce new and effective deliverables that change the landscape for marine debris prevention and/or removal. Projects will communicate these outputs to the public (communities, stakeholders, industry, etc.) with the aim of addressing critical gaps with respect to marine debris. Proposals may address (but are not limited to) innovative or non-proven interception and/or removal technologies (i.e. prototype devices that require additional research and development prior to deployment, and/or need to be tested in new environments), reusable systems, and/or the detection and mitigation of microplastics and/or nanoplastics. See Section I.B. Program Priorities for more details. Competitive projects will include funding for Sea Grant education and extension professionals and display a diverse coalition of partners including (but not limited to) community representatives, stakeholder groups, and industry collaborators. Projects will proactively incorporate principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and accessibility at every level of the work. Principal investigators of proposals selected for funding will be required to participate in annual National Sea Grant Marine Debris meetings to share results of work conducted, discuss challenges, synthesize outputs, and to plan next steps. Cost sharing, leveraged funds, and in-kind support will make projects more competitive. Applicants are strongly encouraged to combine NOAA federal funding with formal matching contributions and informal leverage from a broad range of sources in the public and private sectors. To this end, applicants should note that cost sharing and leverage of other funds is an element considered in the evaluation criteria.

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