Greetings from sunny southern California! Courtney and I arrived on Sunday without any plane delays which was awesome. This week we are out visiting researchers from SCCWRP (Southern California Coastal Water Resources Project) and taking a peek at their marine debris monitoring methods. This morning we were shuttled out to two beaches for SCCWRP’s plastic pellet collection. Researchers sieve sand from three locations along the beach: one at the water’s edge, one at mid-beach, and one at the back of the beach. The remaining items on the screens are placed in jars and taken back to the lab for processing. I didn’t envy that job, and little did I know we would be processing the samples later ourselves! Also at each location, a transect line is walked from the wave line to the back of the beach and debris is counted on 5ft of either side of the line. This was Courtney’s and my first task! It was great to get the experience and see how tricky it is going to be during our own sampling. Several beach goers and surfers were interested in what we were up to when they saw the red wagon and the crazy people shoveling buckets of sand. 🙂 We of course shared with them what the project was, why it was important, and showed them some of the pellets we were finding. There were a lot of Jr. Lifeguards around at camp in their red suits and were also curious as to what we were doing. On our drive back, we were able to get a view of the beaches of Orange County. It had the typical California imagery with roads lined with palm trees and surfers paddling their way out on the surf. In fact, we drove through Huntington Beach where they were setting up for surfing and beach volleyball tournaments…huge! After eating lunch and returning to the lab, we processed two sets of beach samples. The first set was from a relatively “clean” beach where there were very few plastic pellets and which researchers had collected the previous week. Courtney and I were getting worried that we weren’t able to distinguish the pellets from the little pebbles, but once we got to the samples from that day, it became clear how different the two samples were! My sample had numerous tiny pieces of styrofoam which were a pain to pick out and count, but it got done. Courtney’s sample was from a different section of the beach and had many more plastic pellets. We survived day one!