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Student Conservation Association Restores and Preserves Olympic National Park’s Wilderness Coast

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By: Dana Wu, Guest Blogger and Project Coordinator for the NOAA/Olympic National Park Marine Debris Removal Project

This summer, a NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Community-Based Removal grant enabled the Student Conservation Association (SCA) to assemble four debris removal crews at Olympic National Park. This Park works with partner agencies such as the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) to protect its unique habitats, such as its coast, which is not exempt from the effects of marine debris, despite its remote character and location.

With support from Olympic National Park, SCA, NOAA, OCNMS, Washington CoastSavers, and with guidance from the Park’s staff, crews were tasked with restoring Olympic National Park’s 73-mile long coastline. Each crew included eight to ten teenagers and two experienced field leaders, all from different parts of the country. All groups spent two weeks backpacking and working on different sections of the coast, from Shi Shi beach down to the Hoh River. The work was challenging, with some crew members just learning wilderness skills. They gathered heavy loads of litter, but were frustrated when they could not realistically remove all of the garbage they saw. However, they used this to evaluate their own behavior, with Maya, from the SCA/NatureBridge Marine Science Exploration Crew, expressing: “I am realizing I should use less plastic in my daily life.”

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In addition to removing debris, crews listened to Olympic National Park Rangers and OCNMS guest speakers, who discussed topics including marine debris and its impacts on the ecosystem, stewardship principles, and the significance of wilderness areas. Making connections to the current project, Heidi Pedersen, OCNMS Data Verifier for Marine Debris Citizen Science Programs, presented items of local concern, such as ropes, oyster spacer tubes, and plastic shotgun shells and wads. These specific items were collected separately for NOAA researchers studying possible accumulation patterns and density levels among beaches. Additionally, the SCA crews collected and bagged plastic bottles, buoys, ropes, and much more. GPS devices were used to catalogue debris that could not be readily removed, to advise future management plans.

Once the collection of debris was complete, Olympic Park visitors, Park Rangers, community volunteers, and agency partners hiked in and helped to carry out large loads of debris. So far, these collective volunteer groups have removed over 5,203 pounds of debris from the Olympic coast! These efforts embody SCA’s mission to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong environmental stewardship by engaging young people in hands-on service projects. Crew member Grant felt inspired and summarized his feelings as having “…an unmistakable sense of pride to look over [his] shoulder at a beach we had cleaned.” Many thanks to all who fight against marine debris by supporting local community involvement and youth engagement opportunities, now and in the future!

An SCA marine debris removal crew with their first load of marine debris, south of Scott's Bluff. (Photo Credit: SCA)

An SCA marine debris removal crew with their first load of marine debris, south of Scott’s Bluff. (Photo Credit: SCA)

To help support similar conservation and volunteer service projects at Olympic National Park, please visit the Washington National Park Fund page. More information about opportunities with the Student Conservation Association can be found at the SCA page.

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.

8 thoughts on “Student Conservation Association Restores and Preserves Olympic National Park’s Wilderness Coast

  1. We are so grateful for Dana and her team SCA for their work. Obviously, they enjoyed adventure in their actions and natural beauty in the place! Thanks for the stories and pictures
    Liam

  2. Wonderful! Thank you so very much–you are an inspiration to many!

  3. I met Dana and her crew in August while backpacking. My friends and I were very pleasantly surprised by the volunteer efforts by Dana and the SCA organization. Dana was the face of the organization and made a very positive impression on us. We ran into a second SCA group at another point on our route and they assisted us at a river crossing, another positive SCA encounter. Keep up the good work!!!

  4. Great job, Dana! Not just the cleanup, but the learning and inspiration from it, about how we live affects our planet.

  5. Is there a way to have access to more pictures from the crews? I’d really enjoy to see more . And I can’t wait to see what else the SCA has to offer me, serving this summer was one of the best experiences of my life.

  6. Hey I recognize some people. In the photo with 12 SCA Volunteers posing on the beach, preparing to pack out their collected debris. I see Dana Wu on the far right with her orange pack. I also see the bearded guy in the center, he’s the guy who gave me a hand up the slippery river bank. I never met him but I recognize him even now, 3 months later. Thank You!

  7. I was with John Jerrard when we met Dana and her crew doing their good work. I have been active in my own marine debris clean-up activities over the years with my wife and friends and felt very gratified to see a full team of volunteers doing this important work. Meeting Dana in person has motivated me to step up my financial contributions to SCA. Thank you for this memorable experience. You are making the world a better place for everyone!

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