2023 Microplastic Research Program: Request for Proposals

microplastics in the sand behind the words Microplastic Research Program: Request for Proposals
Funding Category
Grants and Funding
Application Deadline
Proposal Budget Help: sgbudget@ucsd.edu
Proposal Contact: sgproposal@ucsd.edu
Focus Area(s)
Healthy Coastal Ecosystems, Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies



March 7, 2023 – 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm PT: RFP Informational Webinar (Optional)

March 24, 2023 – 5:00 pm PT: Letter of Intent due to eSeaGrant

May 15, 2023 – 5:00 pm PT: Full proposals due to eSeaGrant 

*Only applicants who have submitted a letter of intent are eligible to submit a full proposal


Microplastic particles (1 nm to 5 mm in size) are pervasive and persistent in our communities and environment with estimates of plastic entering the global ocean anticipated to increase exponentially each year. Microplastic exposures can cause adverse effects on marine life, including tissue inflammation, impaired growth, developmental anomalies, reproductive difficulties, and mortality. Meanwhile, severely disadvantaged and disadvantaged communities in California may have disproportionate exposure to microplastics through environmental contamination, inhalation and drinking water due to proximity to plastic manufacturing facilities, dense highways, among other causes of plastic particle emissions.

California Sea Grant and the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) have an existing partnership to address marine debris and plastic pollution through the 2018-2024 California Ocean Litter Prevention Strategy. Public Resources Code section 35635 (added by Senate Bill No. 1263, Reg. Session 2017-2018) further required the Ocean Protection Council to develop the Statewide Microplastics Strategy (adopted by OPC on February 23, 2022). The Statewide Microplastics Strategy is a comprehensive, prioritized research plan to better understand the sources and pathways of microplastics to the environment, identify solutions to prevent microplastic pollution, and support the development of risk assessments for microplastics in California marine habitats. 

California Sea Grant and OPC are now soliciting proposals for two research calls to advance microplastics understanding and management in California, consistent with the priorities outlined in the California Ocean Litter Strategy and Statewide Microplastics Strategy. These requests for proposals seek to increase understanding and management of environmental microplastic contamination by informing improved management of specific microplastic sources, refining and improving understanding of microplastic effects in the environment, and informing the use of structural low impact development (LID) stormwater management approaches to intervene and prevent microplastics from reaching California aquatic environments.


The mission of California Sea Grant is to provide the information, tools, training and relationships needed to help California conserve and sustainably prosper from our coastal and marine environments. California Sea Grant accomplishes this by collaborating with a range of local, state, regional, national, and international partners to further the co-production and application of relevant evidence-based knowledge.

California Sea Grant’s Strategic Plan prioritizes opportunities that benefit society through building and maintaining 1) Healthy Coastal Ecosystems (HCE), 2) Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture (SFA), and 3) Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies (RCE). Specifically, the planned solicitations will meet California Sea Grant’s 2024-2027 Strategic Plan HCE Goal 1: California’s coastal and marine ecosystems, including the biodiversity, functioning and services they provide, are better understood, protected, enhanced and restored through the facilitation of partnerships and the (co-) production of knowledge; and address HCE priority topics within pollution in water, sediment and organisms (e.g., marine debris, land-based sources of trash, microplastics, and chemical contaminants). The planned solicitations also address RCE Goal 2: California’s coastal communities have the information, partnerships and tools needed to support planning, policy and actions for emerging marine and coastal industries and resource management that ensure an equitable and resilient path forward; and address RCE priority topics to understand coastal hazards and risks (e.g., water quality hazards, compound risks to coastal habitats, communities and economies).  


The California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) was established to improve the management and protection of ocean and coastal resources and ecosystems. One of the many ways the OPC achieves this purpose is by supporting innovative research that directly informs and improves the stewardship of ocean and coastal resources. OPC has a long-standing commitment to protecting ocean health through addressing ocean litter and plastic pollution. The intent of this solicitation is to meet OPC’s Strategic Plan Objective 3.4.4 and advance the research priorities of the Statewide Microplastics Strategy to better understand the sources and pathways of microplastics to the environment, identify solutions to prevent microplastic pollution, and support the development of risk assessments for microplastics in California marine habitats. The solicitation is also aligned with the 2018-2024 California Ocean Litter Prevention Strategy to increase understanding of the scale and impact of microplastics and microfibers on the marine environment and develop solutions. 

Proposed research should be in line with the following strategic goals and guiding efforts: 


Award Information
Matching Funds 
Research Priorities
Submission Instructions
Letters of Intent
Full Proposals
Review Process
Selection Criteria
Conditions of Award


California Sea Grant and OPC are soliciting proposals for projects that are up to 2 years in duration through two research calls. There is a total of $1,450,000 available for this combined research solicitation. California Sea Grant will contribute $375,000 of NOAA Sea Grant funds to Research Call 1 and OPC will contribute an additional $1,075,000 for projects under Research Calls 1 and 2. The anticipated start date for all projects is approximately October 1, 2023. California Sea Grant will lead grant administration for both solicitations on behalf of OPC. 


No matching funds will be required for this funding opportunity. However, PIs are encouraged to point out related research and collaborations that would complement the submitted proposal.


This competitive call for projects relates to the fate, transport, source attribution, and/or assessment of environmental effects caused by microplastics that enter state surface waters and the marine environment. Projects should be capable of informing management action to address and prevent microplastic pollution in the aquatic environment and/or assessing microplastic effects. 

Priority projects related to this call include, but are not limited to, one of the following:

Investigations of microplastic contamination from specific sources quantified in the environment and/or ambient waters. Sources may include agricultural microplastic contamination, specific and identifiable aerial sources such as clothing dryers, wildfires that occur in the wildland urban interface, or industrial discharges, including plastic production, recycling, composting, and bioplastic production facilities. Proposed research questions may address, but are not limited to:

  • Improved understanding of to what extent, and from what specific sources or practices (e.g., composted or degraded plastics), the agricultural sector may contribute to microplastics in California ambient waters or marine environment.
  • Improved understanding of to what extent wastewater treatment byproducts (e.g., biosolids) introduce microplastics into agricultural soils, compared to soils without application of wastewater treatment byproducts.
  • Improved understanding of specific and identifiable sources and pathways by which microplastics enter California ambient waters to inform management actions that may reduce microplastic loading.

Environmentally relevant microplastic exposure effects and thresholds, including the bioavailability of microplastic morphologies (e.g., size, shape, eco-corona, etc.) and associated chemicals to evaluate hazards and dose-response relationships on marine organisms, endangered/threatened species, and associated human health impacts to inform and refine microplastic risk assessments. Studies incorporating the following are preferred: using organisms most representative of species occurring in California’s aquatic ecosystems, organisms highly sensitive to microplastics, and/or experimental designs utilizing meso- or macrocosm, in situ observations, and/or continuous environmental monitoring. Proposed research questions may address, but are not limited to:

  • Dose-response relationships of environmentally relevant (e.g., polydisperse, realistic weathering and biofouling, etc.) microplastics with an emphasis on data-poor microplastic polymers and morphologies (e.g., microfiber and/or tire wear particles) to inform management recommendations. Studies designed to meet minimum quality criteria (de Ruijter et al. 2020) are strongly preferred.
  • Improved understanding of effect mechanisms, including demonstration of ecologically and/or toxicologically relevant metrics (e.g., volume, surface area) and adverse outcome pathways.

A total of $950,000 is available for Research Call 1. Three to six projects are anticipated to be selected for funding and range from a minimum of $80,000 to a maximum of $375,000 (to include indirect costs, if any). The anticipated start date of these projects is approximately October 1, 2023. The duration of a project request is typically two years, although requests for a one-year award will also be considered.  

This competitive call for projects relates to microplastic removal efficacy of low impact development (LID): structural best management practices (BMPs). The research call seeks to inform the design, location, and use of structural LID BMPs in urban watersheds with high trash generation rates that are co-located in severely disadvantaged community or disadvantaged communities (SDAC/DAC) as defined by California Water Code section 79505.5, subdivision (a). Projects must provide tangible recommendations for effective LID design, operations, and management strategies. 

This research call seeks to address the following: 

  • Determine specific locations and factors (e.g., environmental, hydrogeologic conditions, land use characteristics) within California urban watersheds that have the highest potential to reduce macro- and microplastic loading into the environment with structural LID BMPs.
  • Evaluate structural LID BMPs, including an evaluation of site-specific soil conditions, effects of bioretention soil media composition, effects on biota (e.g. vegetation, at what concentrations will structural LID BMPs no longer function due to degradation of biota caused by microplastics or relevant stormwater contaminants), and design factors (including but not limited to structural BMP dimensions, pre-treatment, soil compaction level), to inform LID design, operations, and management strategies that are most effective in intercepting and reducing microplastic loading in the aquatic and marine environment. 
  • Evaluate the effects of microplastic polymer, size, and shape on the efficacy of stormwater BMPs for microplastic interception.
  • Investigate retention of microplastics in (and any subsequent release from) infiltration BMPs and identify possible maintenance steps to maximize performance of an infiltration BMP during its design life.
  • Identify recommendations and best practices to inform the application of structural LID as a stormwater management approach to intercept macro- and microplastic, including operations and maintenance recommendations for specific LID approaches. 

A total of $500,000 is available for Research Call 2. It is anticipated one to two projects will be selected for funding and range from a minimum of $200,000 to $500,000 (to include indirect costs, if any). The anticipated start date of these projects is approximately October 1, 2023. The duration of a project request is typically two years, although requests for a one-year award will also be considered. 


Eligible applicants for this competitive grant program include public agencies, tribes and Tribal governments, public or private universities, nonprofit corporations, or private entities subject to Public Resources Code Section 35650. Projects must benefit the state of California, relatedly, California applicants will be highly prioritized. California Sea Grant is the final arbiter of decisions regarding eligibility.

Applicants may submit more than one Letter of Intent/Full Proposal, but if more than one proposal is selected for funding, funds will be distributed through a single subaward to the Principal Investigator’s institution. In addition, PIs may be listed as co-PIs on other projects, even if they are lead PI on their own project.

OPC values diversity and equity at all levels of its workforce, in community engagement, and funded research. California Sea Grant is committed to increasing the diversity of the workforce we fund and of the communities we serve. We embrace individuals of all ages, races, ethnicities, national origins, gender identities, sexual orientations, disabilities, cultures, religions, marital statuses, job classifications, veteran status types, as well as income and socioeconomic status types. California Sea Grant is committed to building inclusive research, extension, communication, and education programs that serve people with unique knowledge, backgrounds, life experiences, needs, perspectives, and ways of thinking.

If you have questions about your institution’s eligibility to apply to this call, please contact Kaitlyn Kalua (Kaitlyn.Kalua@resources.ca.gov) or sgproposal@ucsd.edu


The following timetable lists key dates that will lead to the establishment of research awards under this call:
March 7, 2023 – 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm PT: RFP Informational Webinar (Optional)
March 24, 2023 – 5:00 pm PT: Letter of Intent due to eSeaGrant
April 7, 2023 (approximate): Letter of Intent responses sent to applicants
April 13, 2023 – 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm PT: Application Webinar (Optional; full details will be sent to those who submit an LOI)
May 15, 2023 – 5:00 pm PT: Full proposals due to eSeaGrant
[Note: only applicants who submitted a letter of intent are eligible to submit a full proposal] 
July 2023 (approximate): Proposal applicants notified of recommendations
August 15, 2023: Recommended projects brought to August Council meeting for consideration of funding
October 1, 2023: Awards begin
October 1, 2023 – September 30, 2024: Project year 1
October 1, 2024 – September 30, 2025: Project year 2


California Sea Grant and OPC hosted an informational webinar to provide an overview of the request for proposals and application logistics on Tuesday, March 7, 2023 from 3:30 – 4:30 PM PT.

A recording of the webinar is below:

California Sea Grant and OPC hosted an application webinar to provide insight in the review/selection process, walk through full proposal components on eSeaGrant, and address common questions, mistakes, and tips on Thursday, April 13, 2023 from 1:00 – 2:00 PM PT.

A recording of the webinar is below:

The supplementary material shared during the webinar is accessible here


Applicants are required to use the eSeaGrant online system for proposal submission. eSeaGrant walks applicants through each step of the application process. All documents will be submitted through eSeaGrant. If you have not registered in eSeaGrant, you will need to register via the online submission “portal” (http://eseagrant2.ucsd.edu). Once you have registered and login, you can change your password by clicking on your name in the upper-right corner of the screen, and select “My Profile”. 

To start a proposal, or revisit/edit an existing proposal, click on “RFP (Request for Proposals)” on the banner head. Then click on “Add Proposal” under “2023 Microplastic Research Program (Letter of Intent)”. Only applicants who have submitted a letter of intent may submit a full proposal and may receive an invitation to eSeaGrant for their full proposals. 

In order to submit a proposal, you must work down the sequence of sections listed on the left side of the proposal window. eSeaGrant provides sections to input or upload all application components. Files to upload must be converted to PDFs before uploading to eSeaGrant. You may add collaborators (e.g., co-PIs, sponsored project office staff, etc.) as appropriate to assist in completing the proposal using the “Manage Collaborators” button in the upper right corner of your screen. Collaborators must also have accounts on eSeaGrant in order to be added to your proposal.

It is recommended that applicants access the system, review submission requirements within it, and start to upload necessary documents well in advance of the submission deadline. This will give users the opportunity to obtain any necessary clarification or assistance before the deadline. The submission deadline will not be extended. 

For questions regarding use of eSeaGrant, please contact sgproposal@ucsd.edu



Letters of intent (LOI) are due by 5:00 pm PT on March 24, 2023 submitted through the eSeaGrant online portal. Letters of intent (2-page limit, 12 pt font, PDF file) will be evaluated by California Sea Grant and OPC to determine consistency with the priorities of this competitive solicitation. Principal investigators will be notified in mid-March 2023 whether the project is encouraged or discouraged to submit a full proposal. (Any who submit a letter of intent, including those LOIs that are discouraged, are eligible to submit a full proposal).  

In the letter of intent, please provide the following information: 

  • Name of applicant, affiliation, and contact information 
  • Statement of which Research Call (1 or 2) the project addresses
  • Title of project
  • Approximate funding to be requested
  • Permits/CEQA - If permits are required, we ask that this be stated. Ensuring that all permits are properly obtained before research commences is the responsibility of the applicant. 
  • After the review of your LOI, do you give permission to share your contact information with the PIs of other project(s) that California Sea Grant and/or OPC believe might mutually benefit from collaboration? Substantive proposal content will not be shared. (Y/N) 
  • Brief narrative discussion of:
    • the focal topic
    • the specific research questions to be addressed
    • how the proposed work advances the research priorities of the solicitation
    • the proposed study design and approach (including study location if applicable)
    • impacts and/or engagement with impacted communities (if applicable)
    • proposed data analysis
    • anticipated management application 
  • Proposed Reviewers - Sea Grant uses external reviewers to review research proposals. Please enter information into eSeaGrant of at least three potential reviewers who you believe are especially well qualified to review the proposal. 

    • Applicants may also designate persons they would prefer not review the proposal, indicating why. These suggestions are optional.

Program managers will review each LOI to determine whether it is responsive to the goals and priorities of this funding opportunity, as advertised in this notice. Applicants that accomplish the following elements in their LOI will be more likely to be encouraged to submit a full proposal of the proposed work:

  • Demonstrates relevance to the research priorities of this solicitation (stated above)
  • Clearly articulates the problem(s) being addressed and how the project advances existing microplastic research and understanding
  • Sufficiently informs microplastic management recommendations 

Applicants that have the following issues in their LOI will be more likely to be discouraged from submitting a full proposal of the proposed work:

  • Does not clearly demonstrate how the proposed work fulfills the research priorities (stated above) 
  • Lacks a clear connection to management/policy (project is not “decision-maker relevant”) 
  • Is redundant or duplicative of past work


Only applicants who have submitted a letter of intent are eligible to submit a full proposal.

Full proposals are due by 5:00 pm PT on May 15, 2023 through the eSeaGrant online portal. All required proposal documents will be submitted through eSeaGrant (submission instructions above). We encourage applicants to review eSeaGrant well in advance of the submission deadline to ensure an understanding of all requirements. A fillable template Excel Workbook is provided for guidance on select proposal requirements (Cover page, Budget & Budget Justification, Current and Pending Support, and Project Timeline/Milestones chart). 

Adherence to the format requirements is mandatory and ensures fairness across all applications. Applications not meeting the format requirements may be rejected without review. Several application elements have specific page limits and excess pages will not be reviewed. Only the requested materials should be submitted; additional documents (e.g. appendices, unless specified in these instructions) will not be reviewed.

Proposal Format: 

  1. Type Fonts: 12 point Arial or Helvetica preferred. 
  2. Margins: Side, top and bottom margins should be approximately 1 inch each. 
  3. Line Spacing: The narrative of the proposal should be single-spaced. Please do not use 1½ line spacing. 
  4. Graphics: Any tables, figures and illustrations must be submitted in final form and embedded within or appended to the narrative. All graphics and tables count toward the 12-page limit of the project narrative. 
  5. References: The list of references does not count toward the 12-page limit. 

Proposal requirements and size limits for a complete application package are listed below. Please use this as an inventory checklist to aid you in preparing the application.

  1. Signed Institutional Cover Page - This cover page provides basic summary information regarding the project. Applicants should download and use the fillable Excel Spreadsheet (found in the fillable template Excel Workbook and also linked at the bottom of this page), enter this information, and upload this document as a PDF back into eSeaGrant. *Please provide all requested information and obtain the required signatures. If you are applying from an academic institution, send your original proposal to your campus research office for local campus approval.

  2. Project Summary - The Project Summary (not to exceed 1000 characters) is a fillable on-line form in eSeaGrant. Applicants will need to prepare separate sections for objectives, methodology, rationale, and identify the OPC Strategic Plan, Statewide Microplastics Strategy, and California Sea Grant Strategic Plan Focus Area(s) the project addresses to complete the project summary form. The project summary provides a concise description of the proposed research in a form useful to a variety of readers not requiring detailed information. Instructions are available in eSeaGrant to help applicants accurately complete the form. Please follow these instructions carefully - the project summary is the most widely consulted description of your project.

  3. Project Narrative - The project narrative is a single PDF file that includes multiple components. The format and contents may vary; however, proposals should include the information listed below. The project narrative MUST not exceed 12 pages (INCLUDING: Illustrations, Charts, Tables, and Figures). Excess pages will not be included in the review. Applicants do not need to use the entire 12-page maximum. Depending on the proposed activities, a shorter description may suffice. Any works cited, CVs, letters of support, and current and pending support sections included do not contribute to the suggested page limit.

    • Introduction and Background – Provide the rationale for your project (a well-defined problem or important opportunity). Demonstrate a clear relationship between the problem statement and the project objectives. Merit, rationale, innovativeness, and utilization for the research proposed are criteria by which proposals are evaluated. Thus, a clear, concise statement of the “real world” need for your research (rationale), a description of who might use the results and how these results might be used (utilization) should be addressed. 

    • Project Objectives – In number or “bullet” format, provide a list of clearly defined objectives. For each objective, provide a concise statement explaining how the objective is aligned with the goals and priorities of this funding opportunity.

    • Approach (Plan of Work) – Provide an explanation of the methods you will use to address your project objectives. Present the scientific/technical approach, experiments, procedures, etc. Identify and discuss any new approaches (innovativeness) to solving problems and exploiting opportunities in resource management or development, including public outreach. Please make clear what other sources of support (fiscal, personnel or logistical), if any, will be used to help support the work proposed.

    • Outcomes and Deliverables – Project outcomes should be clearly related to the project objectives and should be briefly described. Any planned interactions with relevant management personnel should be described. Within the design of the project, applicants should identify which group(s) of stakeholders will benefit from the work performed. Each proposal should clearly describe how users of information will be engaged before work begins, during the project, and how results will be disseminated to the targeted stakeholder.

    • Project Timeline – Please provide a timeline for accomplishing the proposed work, which covers the entire duration of the project. Include approximate dates for key milestones related to the proposed work, including the accomplishment of anticipated outcomes and release of deliverables.

    • Community Engagement and DEIJA Statement (suggested 1-2 pages) – California Sea Grant and OPC encourage applicants to integrate diversity and inclusion in the scientific project and/or research design. In this section, describe how well the proposed activity broadens the participation of underrepresented groups and how they benefit from the outcomes of the proposed activity. Guided research experiences and mentorship to students, with the goal of increasing retention in STEM and launching careers in coastal science, and supporting research programs within or building research relationships with Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) are highly encouraged. Partnerships with local community-based organizations, tribes, and impacted communities are also highly encouraged, where applicable, to inform the proposed research design and/or location(s).

    • References – List all included references alphabetically. The list of References does NOT count toward the 12-page limit of the narrative but must be included in the narrative pdf file. 

    • CVs and Additional Personnel – CVs (max 2 pages for each person) of all key personnel (PIs, co-PIs) must be included in the narrative pdf file but will not count toward the 12-page limit. Each investigator (PI or co-PI) record created in eSeaGrant should have a CV associated with it. If a CV longer than 2 pages is submitted, Sea Grant will provide reviewers only with the first 2 pages of the CV for each PI and co-PI. 

      • Listing “Additional Personnel” in eSeaGrant is optional, and this section is to be used at your discretion. You may include all additional personnel who are NOT listed as investigators (e.g., Associate PIs, post-doctoral scholars, key graduate students). If there are additional personnel who are not the PI or co-PI’s listed in this section, their CVs should also be attached to the submission.

    • Support Letters - Support letters are optional. If they are to be included, please consolidate all letters into the narrative pdf file. Letters of support will not count toward the 12-page limit.

  4. Budget Narrative – The Budget Narrative must include both the eSeaGrant Budget Forms and a Budget Justification document. In addition to the specific guidance below, general guidance on preparing budgets and budget justification can be found here. The fillable template Excel Workbook can be used to prepare your budget, but all final budgets must be submitted using the eSeaGrant budget forms.  

    • eSeaGrant Budget Forms are required to provide budget breakdowns and budget justifications by year and object class for the proposal. A completed eSeaGrant Budget worksheet should be completed for each project year (i.e., Year 1 and Year 2). Be prepared to enter any salaries, wages, and fringe benefits for all personnel associated with the project. Also, if applicable, indicate expected costs for equipment, expendable supplies, publication costs, and travel. 

    • The Budget Justification is required for each year of the project (or each individual project within an application). Each budget justification should explain the budget items in sufficient detail to enable review of the appropriateness of the funding requested.

    • Travel. Applicants are requested to include expenses to travel to an in-person PI workshop in Q1 of 2024, to be located in San Diego, CA.

    • Indirect Costs (IDC), if applicable. Both federal and state funds will be used to support projects approved for funding. When completing your budget, please use the state IDC rate of 15% (unless your institution has a previously negotiated IDC rate of 25% with OPC) (MTDC). If your project is approved for funding using federal funds, you will be asked to revise your budget to your institution’s federally negotiated rate. If recommended for funding, California Sea Grant may ask you to work with staff to revise your budget to ensure that the project budget, indirect costs, match, etc. are correct. 

  5. Current and Pending Support - Describe any current or pending sources of support if applicable for each investigator (PI and Co-PIs) and other key personnel. An example template is included in the RFP Excel Workbook downloadable here.

  6. Data Management Plan - All applications should include a Data Management Plan. Describe how data and other information generated by the project will be handled, stored, and shared, i.e., disseminated to the public, participants, stakeholders, and the State.

    • The California Natural Resource Agency (CNRA) open data platform serves as the formal vehicle for delivery of all data associated with OPC funded projects. Applicants should also be aware that a wide variety of aquatic environmental data and microplastic toxicity data are collected by and made available by two data collection systems (respectively): the California Environmental Data Exchange Network (CEDEN) and Toxicity of Microplastics Explorer (ToMEx). These two programs also are potential recipients and managers of environmental monitoring and toxicity data collected by researchers, and may aid researchers in fulfilling data accessibility requirements (see NOAA Data Sharing Requirements, below). Applicants are encouraged to contact staff at CEDEN or ToMEx, as appropriate, to discuss availability and access to data, and data management or data quality requirements that might bear on the proposed research program. Applicants are encouraged to address data harmonization and reporting in the Data Management Plan (see e.g., Win et al., 2020 for guidance).

    • NOAA Data Sharing Requirements - Data and information collected and/or created under NOAA grants and cooperative agreements must be made visible, accessible, and independently understandable to general users, free of charge or at minimal cost, in a timely manner (typically no later than two years after the data are collected or created), except where limited by law, regulation, policy or by security requirements. The requirement has two basic parts: (1) environmental data generated by a grant project must be made available after a reasonable period of exclusive use, and (2) the grant application must describe the plan to make the data available (Principal Investigators are expected to execute the plan).

      • If your project produces environmental data, it must conform to NOAA’s Data Sharing Directive for Grants, Cooperative Agreements, and Contracts. For detailed guidance, you can view the current version of the policy, including a definition of environmental data (which can include socioeconomic and model data), download any updates and access additional implementation resources at the following permanent URL (Appendix B outlines requirements): https://nosc.noaa.gov/EDMC/documents/Data_Sharing_Directive_v3.0.pdf

      • If a proposal responding to this competition will not generate environmental data, the data management plan should say, “This project will not generate environmental data, therefore a data management plan is not required.”

  7. Environmental Compliance Questionnaire: An Environmental Questionnaire is required with each application. Applicants can download a fillable questionnaire form here: https://seagrant.noaa.gov/insideseagrant/Implementation. All applicants must ensure that the Questionnaire is completed in full and includes detailed information regarding project location, methodology, and permits. If a question is not applicable to your project write “N/A” as your response; blank responses are considered incomplete responses.  Copies of all permits required for project activities should be included with application materials. If a permit is pending or planned, please provide this information. Guidance on how to complete the Questionnaire and example Questionnaires for different types of projects can be found here: https://seagrant.noaa.gov/insideseagrant/Implementation.

    • The NEPA Questionnaire is required for ALL research projects even if the project is fully lab-based or relies on social science. The NEPA Questionnaire is also required for any project that meets the following criteria:

      • Environmental permits, authorizations or waivers
      • Biological take and/or release
      • Environmental sampling
      • Hazardous or toxic substances and waste
      • Permanent or temporary environmental effects
      • Endangered or threatened species and/or protected areas
      • Known or unknown risks to human health or the environment
      • Controversial environmental subject matter
  8. California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance: The CEQA summary is a fillable online form in eSeaGrant. Please include information on the project’s CEQA compliance. The Ocean Protection Council must determine whether the project is in compliance with CEQA prior to the issuance of funding awards. Please note that OPC cannot serve as a lead agency for CEQA. It is the responsibility of the applicant to identify a lead agency and ensure compliance under CEQA. If you believe the project to be exempt from CEQA, please identify which exemption the project falls under. The definition of activities that are “projects” under CEQA is available here, and the list of activities that are categorically exempt from CEQA is available here. If the project requires environmental review under CEQA, please provide the following information: 

    • Lead Agency Name
    • Lead Agency Representative, Title
    • Contact Information (phone, email)
    • What type of CEQA document has been, or is being prepared: Mitigated Negative Declaration/Negative Declaration or Environmental Impact Report?
      Please upload the CEQA document (draft is acceptable if the final is not available).
    • If CEQA is in progress, please provide an estimated date by which the lead agency will approve the CEQA document.
    • If permits are required to conduct the proposed project, please fill out this Permit Approval Status Form and upload the PDF version into eSeaGrant. If no permits are required, please state "No permits are required for this project."


  9. Accessibility Plan – Please provide information regarding how accessibility requirements will be addressed (suggested ½ - 1 page uploaded as a PDF). All reports, deliverables, and communication materials produced for online posting and distribution associated with research funded by this RFP must be accessible, including but not limited to, blindness and low vision, deafness, and hearing loss, in compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. For more information regarding accessibility requirements, please visit: https://dor.ca.gov/Home/WebAccessibilityToolkithttps://dor.ca.gov/Home/WebAccessibilityToolkit. Please indicate whether this required portion of the project will be addressed in-house or if this is a service that must be contracted out. If the applicant will require financial support to address accessibility requirements, this service can be included in the budget of the project.

  10. Demographics Questionnaire (Optional) – This questionnaire can be filled out online in eSeaGrant. It is voluntary and answers will be anonymous. Any data provided assists California Sea Grant in its commitment to equal opportunities. This questionnaire will be separated from the application and will not be used in any review decisions. This data will be used internally for statistical data gathering and reporting purposes in evaluating the extent to which California Sea Grant is achieving its equal opportunity goals.


Proposals will undergo a structured review process led by California Sea Grant and OPC. Each proposal will be subjected to at least three external written reviews. Reviewers/panelists will all be external to California Sea Grant and all reviewers will be asked to complete a Conflict of Interest (COI) form prior to conducting their review. Review panels will include subject matter experts, scientists, and agency representatives. At their discretion, CA Sea Grant and OPC may request additional review by likely user groups of the research findings or suggest coordination of complementary proposals. 


To be funded, research must be consistent with the missions of California Sea Grant and OPC, be consistent with this request for proposals, and be a microplastic-based project likely to yield results capable of informing management action to address microplastic contamination in California.

Evaluation of proposals will be based on the following criteria: 

  • Project Rationale, Relevance, and Utilization (30%): The degree to which the proposed project addresses an important issue, scientific problem, information gap, or opportunity in the health, development, use or management of marine or coastal resources and ecosystems, consistent with the priority research areas of the solicitation. The degree to which the proposed project will help inform future management action to address microplastic pollution and demonstrates who might use the results and how these results might be used.
  • Scientific Merit and Innovativeness (30%): The degree to which the proposed project will provide possible solutions, explore, and develop new approaches to evaluate, quantify, and/or manage microplastic pollution through use of state-of-the-art and robust methods. Demonstrates that the project builds from and advances the state of the science without duplicating or being redundant with previous work.
  • Community Engagement and DEIJA (20%): The degree to which diversity and inclusion is integrated in the project and/or research design, including how the proposed activity broadens the participation of underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and/or impacted communities in the research design, location(s), and/or mentorship opportunities.
  • Qualifications of Investigators (15%): The degree to which investigators are qualified by education, training and/or experience to execute the proposed project. Evidence of any record of achievement with previous funding. 
  • Project Costs and Justification (5%)   


California Sea Grant and OPC shall award in the rank order based on the evaluation criteria above unless the proposal is justified to be selected out of rank order based on one or more of the following factors:

  1. Availability of funding.
  2. Balance/distribution of funds:
    • Geographically
    • By type of institution 
    • By type of partners 
    • By research priority 
    • By project types
  3. Duplication of other projects funded or considered for funding by California Sea Grant and OPC.
  4. Program priorities and policy factors.
  5. Applicant’s prior award performance.
  6. Partnerships with/participation of diverse groups, mentors and underrepresented communities.

It is expected that PIs will be notified in July 2023 whether CA Sea Grant and OPC intend to fund their project, pending concurrence from NOAA Sea Grant and OPC. Projects recommended for funding through this review process will be presented at an Ocean Protection Council meeting on August 15, 2023 for consideration of final approval of awards. After OPC and NOAA Sea Grant concurrence, applicants will be notified of the final award selection and can begin projects on or after October 1, 2023.


A full description of the Conditions of Award will be provided to project PIs if funded. Briefly, throughout the award period PIs will be required to:

Progress Reports

Provide project Progress Reports to California Sea Grant on an annual basis, including a final report, and a copy of any thesis or dissertation from students supported by this award, even if it is completed after the award period. Progress Reports and Final Reports are extremely important for describing the impacts, accomplishments, products, and outreach that were accomplished during the life of a project.

Work with California Sea Grant’s Communication Team and assist California Sea Grant's efforts to publicize your research activities.

Acknowledge Support

Acknowledge OPC and California Sea Grant support in all relevant presentations and publications. Attributions to OPC and California Sea Grant-funded (or supported) projects require attribution and funding acknowledgment. 


Proposal Content Questions: 

Kaitlyn Kalua, Ocean Protection Council - Water Quality Program Manager


eSeaGrant Questions: sgproposal@ucsd.edu

Tanya Torres, California Sea Grant - Marine Debris Research Associate

Lian Guo, California Sea Grant - Research Coordinator

Budget Questions: sgbudget@ucsd.edu

Carol Bailey-Sumber, California Sea Grant - Grants Analyst

Rose Madson, California Sea Grant - Assistant Director