Before starting at Coastkeeper, I spent a few years as a teacher. From 3rd-12th grade, teaching science is frequently an uphill battle. Sadly, the majority of students in middle and high school simply don’t have any connection to science. Without any reason to care about science, it’s incredibly difficult for students to engage.
Hands-on learning became critical for my students. Turning science into something that they can see, do, touch, or even change made a remarkable impact on their subject comprehension.
La Jolla Shores is special to our San Diego coastline. Set along an Area of Special Biological Significance and the Matlahuyal marine protected area (MPA), the water quality, marine life, and habitat are incredibly important to protect. Pressures from human activity, both on and offshore, can pose threats to these coastal resources. High Tech High students had the chance this week to do their part in protecting them, but also learn more about why they’re so important.
Along the coast, students worked in groups to collect marine debris and document activity within the MPA. Testing out the web-based app developed by UCSD, students recorded observations of human activity, helping Coastkeeper and other groups in San Diego identify trends in human use and potentially effectiveness of MPA regulations. While students learned about MPAs, they were able to take an active part in their assessment, contributing to science and policy that impacts us here in San Diego.
Volunteering helped make our coastline a little cleaner, but let students see where runoff goes, actually count how many pollutants we're producing and think about their impacts, while seeing an actual change in their environment. By making a positive impact in their community, science and environmental issues become a little more personal. For so many students, that connection is what drives their passion in science and I am thrilled to help them find it through service learning activities.
Another group set out on a “Pollution Patrol” of La Jolla Shores, sweeping nearly every street west of La Jolla Shores Drive and identifying potential pollution issues. Their biggest concern? Cigarette butts. In just an hour, students collected over 665 cigarette butts from the area, with most found in streets near stores. Students that morning were shocked by what they were finding in an area San Diegan’s value for its pristine beauty and ecological structure.
Beach cleanup volunteers with EPMG could not have chosen a nicer day to pick up debris on Pacific Beach while enjoying the beautiful San Diego weather. EPMG hosted one of our Sponsored Beach Cleanups, a great opportunity for corporate groups and organizations to learn more about pollution and how to prevent it through a hands-on beach cleanup experience.
Within the first hour, the 27 volunteers from EPMG had already found three dead birds, potentially a result of ingestion of marine debris or entanglement in materials that made its way to the beach. By the end of the cleanup, they had picked up 2,720 cigarette butts from the beach and the boardwalk.
Cigarette butts are one of the main contributors to marine pollution, taking anywhere from 18 months to ten years to break down. Just one cigarette butt in a liter of water is lethal to fish and other marine animals and their constant presence is concerning.
In 2012, we found over 70,000 cigarette butts throughout San Diego county. Slowing their accumulation in our waterways depends on proper disposal of cigarette butts, rather than leaving them on sidewalks and in storm drains, where they can eventually make their way to our beaches.
Volunteers from EPMG collected over 38 pounds of trash during their cleanup, finding more than a pound per person. In addition to cigarette butts, small plastics were found in abundance across the beach. Over 400 unidentifiable plastic pieces and nearly 200 plastic bottle cpas, straws, and food wrappers were collected. Many of these come from drinks and snacks we bring to the beach in single-use containers. As summer beach season approaches, do your part and consider bringing food and drinks in a reusable container that won't get left behind!
EPMG volunteers got an up close look at one of the many marine organisms impacted by marine debris and their cleanup efforts. A baby sea lion, possibly impacted by the current food shortage, made its way up onto the beach. Quickly attended to by the SeaWorld animal rescue team, the sea lion pup's presence was a reminder that we share our beaches and water with more than just people. So many items removed from the beach by EPMG could pose a serious threat to marine mammals like sea lions. Keeping our beaches and waterways clear of small plastics and toxic cigarette butts are a small way to make a huge difference for human health and marine life alike.
San Diego Coastkeeper is thankful for companies like EPMG who are committed to making a difference in San Diego's communities. Keeping our water clean and safe is something we strive for every day, and we need the help and awareness of our volunteers.
Last week, I was invited to attend a beach cleanup along Silver Strand training beach with sailors from Naval Base Coronado. Anytime I get to help with a beach cleanup is a great opportunity, but being able to participate with one where so few people get to visit was an incredible experience.
Sailors who work every day on Silver Strand arrived to help make their “office” a little cleaner and to give back to the greater San Diego community. Working for about three hours, the team hauled more than 12 cubic yards of debris from the beach, completing EPA marine debris data cards as they worked. Slightly different from San Diego Coastkeeper’s beach cleanup cards, the EPA is looking closer at the source of debris. Asking volunteers to not only tally their findings, but note any specific brands they can identify during the cleanup.
The Navy cleanup is held annually in advance of the Western snowy plover and California least tern nesting season, when Navy training is adjusted to avoid potential damage to nests. With the season starting March 1, the removal of debris plays a huge role in helping these birds to survive and thrive along Silver Strand.
While not coordinated by Coastkeeper, being at the cleanup was a great way to see the part the Navy plays here in San Diego in minimizing our marine debris issues and what strides the EPA is taking to tackle the same problem.
Cleaning a beach vital to San Diego and our military alongside Navy sailors and EPA representatives was a strong reminder of just how important clean and healthy water is to all of us. No matter where you live or work, we all can contribute to the marine debris problem and we can all be an equally effective part of the solution.
San Diego Coastkeeper offers a number of ways for the community to get involved in keeping our waters clean. Our beach cleanup program gives groups and individuals a way to actively participate in the solution through our monthly cleanups and Beach Cleanup in a Box.
A few times a year, we get the chance to work with a group through a Sponsored Cleanup, and they're often some of the most memorable experiences in this program. This past week, we were lucky enough to host such a cleanup with the support of LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics. In town for a meeting, 30 LUSH employees from across North America came together at La Jolla Shores for an incredible day of giving back and learning.
This wasn't just another beach cleanup. There was something unique about the work done by this group. While talking with them about the the sources of marine debris, they shared with me ways they work to fight the problem in their own lives and through their work with LUSH. As a company that uses 100 percent post-consumer recycled bottles, biodegradable packing peanuts (instead of Styrofoam!), and uses fresh ingredients in their products, they were all personally connected to the marine debris problem and saw how their responsible choices made huge impacts on our waters.
Meticulously filling out their data cards, the LUSH team collected over 4,835 items from La Jolla Shores, sitting along an Area of Special Biological Significance. In two hours, they removed 26.85 pounds, including 2,542 plactic items, 809 cigarette butts and 636 Styrofoam pieces.
For a cold February afternoon, their enthusiam and excitement to make a difference that day was infectious. Surfers and joggers stopped to thank them for their work, giving our visitors a chance to connect with the people directly impacted by their efforts that day. It was also a reminder that those responsible choices they make in their own lives and through LUSH have a greater influence than they sometimes see.
Before leaving the beach that day, all 30 LUSH team members, hailing from across the US and Canada, became San Diego Coastkeeper members . While those of us who work and play in San Diego's water know the challenge we have in protecting it, it's a wonderful reminder that we have members 1,000s of miles away supporting our work and have actively contributed to solving those problems.
All of us at San Diego Coastkeeper would like to send a huge Thank You to the LUSH team for their efforts at La Jolla Shores and back home!
Every time I present at a school, I am always struck by how hungry students are for hands-on environmental education. Revently, I had the pleasure of meeting with over 200 students from Linda Vista Elementary and Carson Elementary school.
The students were in the middle of an environmental curriculum and were looking for additional engagement around the topic of water quality and pollution control. To augment their learning, San Diego Coastkeeper came in to teach a hands-on lesson from Project SWELL, school-based science curriculum that teaches children about the importance of the San Diego region's waters.
Each lesson began with a simple question: What is marine debris and how does it affect the animals that live in marine environments? After spending a few minutes brainstorming ideas the students got an opportunity to model how entanglement can affect a sea animal.
Sarah Hargis, the Literacy Supervisor at Linda Vista Elementary had this to say about the presentation:
“[This] presentation not only gave real insight to our students' questions, but also gave them hands-on activities that simulated real situations that occur in the environment due to human negligence. We wouldn't have been able to have a successful environmentalism unit without Ms. Gipson's presentation. We look forward to having her visit again and continue being part of our effort to educate students on the environment."
Thanks Sarah! I look forward to working with your students again.
Interested in learning more about Project SWELL? Visit us online at www.projectswell.org
If you’ve ever helped out at a San Diego Coastkeeper or Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter beach cleanup, you’ve likely been handed one of our data cards along with your bags, gloves and trash grabbers. While the data card is sometimes met with enthusiasm, there is equal parts confusion. The reaction is similar to students who are told they get to watch a movie in class but have to fill out a worksheet too.
Unlike your movie worksheet in 6th grade, the data sheet we hand you isn’t graded but it does get used long after your day at a beach cleanup. They get compiled in our annual marine debris report and help direct decisions and actions.
The data cards are used to track what debris we’re finding on our beaches throughout the year. Every part of the card you fill out helps us to improve our understanding of marine debris in San Diego. They allow us to help plan for future cleanups, make local recommendations, design education programs, and study the impacts of policy.
Filling out a data card for an hour or two or cleanup may not seem like a big deal, but by each one of our 4,308 volunteers in 2012 helping to correctly fill out their data cards, we are able to learn far more about marine debris that we could on our own.
Thanks to data cards, we know:
- 7,594 pounds of trash were removed in 2012. This means each volunteer removed roughly 1.72 pounds of trash. That’s over a pound more than in previous years!
- Ocean Beach, historically one of the dirtiest beaches, is now one of the cleanest, with less than 1 pound removed per volunteer.
- 32% of all items were plastic and 40% were cigarette butts. In fact, 20,000 more cigarette butts were found on beaches this year. Yikes!
- Over 53,000 debris items on our beaches are actually recyclable. Teaching our neighbors, family, and friends about what we can recycle could make a huge difference.
- A record low number of plastic bags were found, which means we're making better choices as a community. However, we collected 7,500, and this is still too many plastic bags on our beaches.
Thanks to all of our wonderful volunteers who helped make this another successful year of beach cleanups and contributed to our data collection.
Want to be a part of our 2013 marine debris program? Come out to any one of our beach cleanups. San Diego Coastkeeper is also happy to arrange special cleanups through our Beach Cleanup in Box and Sponsored Cleanup Program. We’ll supply you with everything you need to make your beaches a little cleaner, including a data card.
We spent a great evening at Millennial Tech Middle School’s Winter Science Festival in the Chollas View neighborhood of San Diego. San Diego Coastkeeper Core volunteer Caitlin, San Diego Coastkeeper’s education coordinator Nia, and I were on-hand to provide brief 25-minute educational sessions on marine debris.
The ‘Marine Sea Animal Entanglement Exercise’ was shared with students and their parents. Eliciting answers to questions regarding how marine debris such as plastic bags, cigarette butts, oil, and other items end up in the ocean and have their effect on sea life from students was fun and students always provided many examples of how this happens. Students know remarkably well the effects of pollution on their environment and how it can affect marine life as they explain it to everyone participating in the exercise.
The exercise has students (and parents) pinch their fingers together like a dolphin beak or rostrum, pick up beans scattered on their table (representing fish), and placing them in a container for a 30 second time span. Each student then counts how many fish she or he caught and scores are tallied. Then a rubber band (representing a plastic bag entangled on the beak) is placed over the fingers and students again try to catch fish for 30 seconds. Scores are tallied and students can see the effects that this has on animals trying to survive in the wild.
One of the more interesting discoveries by most parents doing this exercise is that San Diego sewage and stormwater drainage are really two separate entities, that is, stormwater does drain directly into the ocean taking all the trash that accumulates on streets and watersheds with it directly. Educating parents and their young students in outreach activities like this is another step to moving towards San Diego Coastkeeper’s goal of having swimmable, fishable and drinkable water for everyone.
Millennial Tech Middle School is a magnet school with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Post written by Hector Valtierra. Hector is a member of San Diego Coastkeeper's Community Advisory Council.
Beach cleanup events always amaze me. I'm happy to say our first Mission Possible: Clean the Bay Day was no exception but perhaps exceeded any expectations I had for the afternoon. Created in partnership with SeaWorld, the event was developed to takle water quality issues in Mission Bay through debris removal, an area we all agreed needed attention.
Kicking off from South Shores Park boat ramp in Mission Bay, 149 volunteers woke up exceptionally early on a Saturday and set out by foot, kayak, and boat to do their part in keeping our water clean. While most of the volunteers worked from land, two kayakers from the community came out to collect debris further from shore. San Diego Coastkeeper's 19' Boston Whaler, Clean Sweep, joined the event as well, alongside two SeaWorld vessels.
While most beach cleanups tend to bring out the "best of the best" in San Diego, this was one to remember. These volunteers included families with small children, high school clubs, friends and coworkers. One group was there to celebrate a birthday, with her gift request being that they attend the cleanup with her. "Lauren's Present", as they called themselves, went on to win SeaWorld Tickets and a penguin encounter for collecting the most cigarette butts. For those who are wondering, they collected 200 cigarette butts.
It's going to be difficult to top the work our volunteers did that day. In just a few hours, they collected 430 pounds of debris. For those having a hard time visualizing that, it's the weight of a young male sea lion. By weight, this is the most debris collected at any San Diego Coastkeeper event this year. The next closest was just over 200 pounds removed by 236 volunteers in Oceanside.
Many of the 9,060 items were what we usually see at beach cleanups but in larger quantities than we've seen this year on beaches. 430 plastic bags, 1,582 cigarette butts, 974 plastic food wrappers and nearly 500 glass bottles and fragments topped the list.
It was truly a collaborative event, with SeaWorld and the US Coast Guard joining us and supporting a phenominal effort by the San Diego community. Thanks to SeaWorld, 100 participants returning bags of trash, were rewarded with a ticket to the park, and several groups, like "Lauren's Present," walked away with top honors in special categories including "Bring Your Own Supplies" and "Most Unusual Item." The award for "Most Trash Collected" went to an outstanding group from Poway High School's Surf Club, hauling in 40 pounds of trash and earning SeaWorld tickets and dolphin encounters.
Cub Scout Pack 1209 Den 4 used the event to teach their scouts about the "leave no trace behind" policy. Collecting five pounds in their bag, one parent explained how amazing it was that so many small items, like plastic and styrofoam, added up to be so much. Couldn't have said it better myself.
While San Diego Coastkeeper looks forward to a repeat event next year, we hope that those enjoying Mission Bay throughout the year do their part to "leave no trace," just like the Cub Scouts. Just like each piece of trash adds up quickly, so do individual actions. Help us set a new record next year, making Mission Possible: Clean the Bay our first cleanup where marine debris is nowhere to be found.
As a student attorney for San Diego Coastkeeper, my work naturally revolves around the organization's core mission of ensuring drinkable, swimmable, and fishable waters. While water is almost always the central theme of my work, there is a difference between talking or writing about water and actually seeing, feeling, and breathing the ocean. So when the chance arose to go out on the Coastkeeper boat Monday morning, I couldn't have been more excited!
I joined Captain Chris and my supervising attorney and Waterkeeper, Jill Witkowski, onboard the Clean Sweep. It was a warm, beautiful morning, and we set off from Kona Kai marina and headed out through San Diego Bay. As we passed by Harbor Island and rounded toward downtown, however, the beauty of the Bay was besmirched by an abundance of plastic bottle and styrofoam debris. Chris and Jill both commented that the amount of trash was unusual. But as we continued on toward Chula Vista, I couldn't help noticing that the presence of trash did not let up.
Near a public pier and marina around National City, enough was enough and our mission turned from observation and presence on the water to trash cleanup. With Jill trash spotting, Captain Chris deftly maneuvered the Coastkeeper boat alongside debris, which I then plucked from the water. Our "harvest" included the following unsavory items: spray paint bottle, chemical mixing bottle, styrofoam packaging material, block of wood, and snack chip bags.
With the engine well at the back of the boat full of our booty, we cruised back to the marina, braving the reduced visibility and sudden drop in temperature of rapid onset fog. Back near downtown, the fog dissipated, and once more we came face to face with the problem of trash on the water. We collected a few more items, then made our way back to Kona Kai. On the ride in, I reflected on the fact that from a desk in an office or library water pollution can sometimes become an abstract concept. But putting my hand into the water to pull out trash? That made it real.
Now I encourage all you readers to get your hands in the water and pull some trash! It's an important side of environmental stewardship, and something all us coastkeepers and friends of the environment should be involved in. On October 27, San Diego Coastkeeper will be hosting "Mission Possible: Clean the Bay Day with SeaWorld." This event runs from 8am to 11am at Mission Bay, and food will provided by Rubio's. So please bring your work gloves, sunscreen, boat if you have one, and give us a hand. Hope to see you there!
Beach cleanups are one of our volunteers' favorite programs. Who doesn’t love a morning on the beach with friends and family while helping to solve our global marine debris issue? So far this year, more than 1,000 Coastkeeper volunteers have removed over 2,736 pounds of trash from our coastline.
Impressive work, but still troubling.
Even with many responsible and concerned individuals keeping our beaches free of trash, there’s always more to remove. So where is it coming from? Were all 2,615 plastic bags collected this year intentionally or accidentally left at the beach? Most likely, no.
San Diego is home to 11 watersheds, areas in which all water from rain, creeks, rivers and streams drains into the same location. For San Diegans, that common location is the Pacific Ocean. Water moving through our watershed transports trash left on the ground and moved out of trash bins by wind or animals to the ocean.
To address some of our inland pollution sources, San Diego Coastkeeper and UCSD Environment, Health & Safety teamed for a cleanup of the UCSD campus. Opting for a morning in a parking lot and inland canyons over a Southern California beach may not seem a fair trade, but what we found might convince you otherwise.
Twenty-one volunteers removed 31 pounds of trash. This included 4,201 cigarette butts. Just as a reference, our 150 volunteers at our Coastal Cleanup Day site at Tourmaline Beach found 130 pounds of trash. They collected 672 cigarette butts. Inland pollution needs a little more credit than we’ve been giving it.
Trash left behind at UCSD can travel all the way to La Jolla Shores. Here, trash entering the ocean is unsightly and directly impacts an Area of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) where pollutants are banned. This area is considered so ecologically important that the state gave this designation to 88 acres at Scripps and 450 acres at La Jolla.
Maintaining the health of our ASBS regions in San Diego is critical but difficult to manage. Impacted by actions not only along the coast, but throughout the watershed, each individual living here has a role in protecting them.
Given the success of our event with UCSD Environment, Health & Safety, Coastkeeper is looking forward to more programs focused on our inland areas to protect our water and coastline. In the meantime, do your part. Help protect the unique and fragile ecosystems we have in our backyard by remembering your actions have an impact, even far from the coast.