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All Beaches Are Not Created Equal: NOAA Restoration Day 2011

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NOAA employees organizing into their respective activity groups. Photo credit: NOAA MDP

June 2 was NOAA Restoration Day, an annual event that brings employees together from across NOAA for a day of restoration activities on the Chesapeake Bay. This voluntary event gives employees the opportunity to work with others and learn about NOAA science. This year’s event took place at Piscataway Park in Accokeek, MD, under sunny skies.

Activities included switchgrass planting, marine debris cleanups on the beaches, removal of invasive species from the surrounding area paths, digital elevation mapping, fish seining and sampling, and SAV (sub-aquatic vegetation) surveys.

Even though I had signed up to photo and video document the day’s activities, I inevitably found myself picking up debris from the beaches after snapping the pictures and videos (yes, I picked up the debris after I caught it on film).

Switchgrass planting. Photo credit: NOAA MDP

Over the span of about a mile, I noticed drastic differences between the two beach sites in sediment composition as well as type, size, and distribution of the debris.

While the first beach was sandier, the second site was siltier and had more “older” and embedded items than site #1. Kim Couranz, (team lead for the Piscataway cleanup at site #2) and I both surmised that there were larger items (e.g., garbage cans, tarps, and bottles embedded in tree roots) because the area had less water movement and was protected by a strip of land separating the two beaches.

The cleanup participant comments I heard most often were, “What an incredible amount of trash,” and “Who would have known so much debris could be on one beach?”

Kim Couranz of NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office talking with volunteers. Photo credit: NOAA MDP

These comments got me thinking about how to share this cleanup experience with others. This blog came to mind but so did theNOAA Marine Debris Tracker, developed by University of Georgia in partnership with the NOAA Marine Debris Program. When I told my fellow cleanup participants about the globally available smartphone app, some of them had already downloaded it (last count is 800 downloads in 3 weeks)! A few of the folks who had not heard about the app’s availability thought it was a cool concept and downloaded it on the spot!

So while I began the day with the goal of learning about NOAA science on the Chesapeake Bay (which I did), I was happy to have had the opportunity to tell others about a way they can engage with marine debris as summer progresses and they visit beaches around the country.

If you’ve seen debris on the beach and wanted to make a lasting impact, download the app and help us track debris types and locations around the world. If you’re so inclined, I would encourage you to pick it up (if possible and safe) and dispose of it appropriately. You’ll be glad you did!  — Becky

Site #1, sandy beach south of jetty with more plastic bottles and less-degraded debris. Fewer submerged debris items overall. Photo credit: NOAA MDP

Site #2, silt beach north of jetty with large bulky items. Photo credit: NOAA MDP

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

One thought on “All Beaches Are Not Created Equal: NOAA Restoration Day 2011

  1. Great article! And it’s what I’m finding on my local beach as well. I’ve just finished a full year of weekly cleanups at a small beach in Saco, Maine. Two zones of about 250 feet each, separated by a space of about 100-150 feet. And amazingly different amounts/signatures of debris showing up on the one versus the other. (Even in midwinter when beachgoer choices aren’t part of the equation.) Gets me wondering whether it’s a question of rock outcrops, slope of the shore, wave interference.

    (PS: I’ve got the tracker, love it. Working now on the best way to upload the past year’s information given the restrictions with GPS location/date stamping.)

    – Harry

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