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).
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?”
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