Microparticles consisting of the thermal responsive polymer N-isopropyl acrylamide (polyNIPAM), a metal ion-binding ligand and a fluorophore pair that undergoes fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) have been prepared and characterized. Upon the addition of Cu(II), the microparticles swell or contract depending on whether charge is introduced or neutralized on the polymer backbone. The variation in microparticle morphology is translated into changes in emission of each fluorophore in the FRET pair. By measuring the emission intensity ratio between the FRET pair upon Cu(II) addition, the concentration of metal ion in solution can be quantified. This ratiometric fluorescent indicator is the newest technique in an ongoing effort to use emission spectroscopy to monitor Cu(II) thermodynamic activity in environmental water samples.