CSU Channel Islands, U.S. EPA Partner for First Marine Debris Program at a California University
Camarillo, Calif., April 2, 2013 – CSU Channel Islands (CI) is partnering with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on a Marine Debris Program that gives students a valuable, service-learning experience while helping the EPA with a priority program that aims to combat coastal and marine debris pollution. Dozens of students will conduct the initial coordinated survey and cleanup effort at Hueneme Beach (parking area “C”) on Sunday, April 7, from 9:00 a.m. to noon, working south from the Port Hueneme Pier.
The Marine Debris Program represents the first partnership between a California university and the EPA to systematically document and clean up area beaches. The effort transcends a traditional beach cleanup by engaging students in sophisticated field survey research techniques, data collection, and geospatial mapping. In addition to having students document types of debris, such as plastics, Styrofoam, wood or fishing-related waste, the EPA plans to use the data to identify key industries and manufacturers who may be responsible for sources of pollution.
“With the help of this data, we can work more effectively to reduce beach pollution at the source,” said Anna-Marie Cook, EPA Region 9 Marine Debris Program Coordinator. “Through partnerships like this, we hope to achieve a permanent change in the way people use and dispose of trash, especially plastics which have a particularly detrimental effect on ecosystems and, potentially, human health.”
“This is a science project and a community service combined into one effort,” said Dr. Christopher Cogan, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science & Resource Management, who is leading the Marine Debris Program for CI. “Working with the EPA enables our students to be part of an important national effort to advance sustainability and stewardship. This is an amazing opportunity to tie together elements of science instruction, geospatial analysis, cooperation and interaction with a federal agency, and service learning that engages with the community.”
The April 7th event will involve more than 30 freshman students from CI’s Environmental Science & Resource Management program, as well as several science seniors and students from campus clubs. Representatives of the EPA will also be on hand. Students will work in teams of five to ten to scour the beach, record debris quantities, varieties and locations into field study forms using Global Positioning System units, and haul away trash. Once back on campus, senior students will analyze and convert the data into high-resolution computer maps, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to illustrate the variety and extent of the pollution.
“Geospatial maps are a powerful tool that can generate public awareness of serious environmental problems and help bring about action and change,” said Cogan. “These specialized maps communicate like pictures do and allow people to see data in a meaningful way. My senior students are proficient in geospatial analysis and mapping, so this project is a great opportunity for them to apply their knowledge and skills while simultaneously serving as mentors for the incoming students.”
CI is the first EPA partner to enlist California college students and scientific protocols with GIS mapping. CI and the EPA plan to make the Marine Debris Program a multi-year effort targeting beaches throughout the region and offering opportunities for faculty, students and EPA experts to interact. CI will seek additional funding for equipment and materials needed to expand the students’ work. The EPA also hopes to use the scientific protocols developed by Cogan and his students to launch similar programs at other CSU campuses and California colleges.
Tracking and preventing marine debris is a regional priority for the EPA, which works with several other agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Defense on similar efforts. For more information about the EPA’s work to combat marine debris, visit www.epa.gov/region9/marine-debris/.
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About California State University Channel Islands
CSU Channel Islands (CI) is the only four-year, public university in Ventura County and is known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural and international perspectives, and its emphasis on experiential and service learning. CI's strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials, and innovative master's degrees. Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology, and classroom instruction augmented by outstanding faculty research. CI has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond. Connect with and learn more about CI by visiting CI's Social Media.