Monday, February 2, 2015

Plastic Beads, Fragments, and Fibers! Oh My!

Clean Ocean Action’s Microplastic Research Project

Clean Ocean Action is hard at work investigating microplastics in beach sand and coastal waters! In the summer of 2014, Cassandra Ornell, Staff Scientist, and Catie Tobin, Marine Science Education Coordinator, teamed up with scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) along with students from the Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST).

Over the past few months, the team has been hard at work testing various methods that would provide the best data. After time spent with the different systems in the lab, the project has finally moved into the identification stage in which the team is viewing their samples under the microscope. As of last week, the first microbead was seen, confirming the hypothesis that microplastics are present in the New Jersey coastal area.

In the months ahead, the team will continue the identification phase with the hopes of releasing the data in tandem with the year of celebration for the 30th Beach Sweep Anniversary.  Stay tuned for updates!

Read more about the study here

Friday, January 9, 2015

Reducing Styrofoam in the Ocean

Single-Use Styrofoam Ban in NYC

Beginning on July 1, 2015, single-use Styrofoam products will be banned in New York City as per a decision made by Mayor De Blasio in the beginning of January. Food service establishments, stores and manufacturers will not be allowed to possess, sell, or offer for use single service Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam articles or polystyrene loose fill packaging. New York City is now the largest city in the country to ban EPS foam.

The decision came after the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) investigated the ability of foam to be recycled and determined that it could not be properly disposed. The DSNY consulted with corporations, such as the Dart Container Corporation, non-profits, vendors, and other stakeholders.
In addition to phasing out single-use Styrofoam products, NYC’s Department of Education will be utilizing foam trays with compostable plates in schools as of May 1st.

In 2013 alone, during Clean Ocean Action’s Beach Sweeps, volunteers picked up a total of 28,618 foam plastic items, which could be further broken down into fast food containers, cups, pieces, etc. This ban will not only help the waterways of NYC, but it will also protect areas downstream of New York from getting polluted with excess Styrofoam.

For more information, visit:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Blue Star Program Goes To D.C.

As a result of collaboration between Restore America’s Estuaries and the Coastal Society, Clean Ocean Action’s Cassandra Ornell, Staff Scientist, and Catie Tobin, Marine Science Education Coordinator, attended their National Summit in early November at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center in Maryland. Inspiring Action, Creating Resilience  
In early November, Clean Ocean Action’s Cassandra Ornell, Staff Scientist, and Catie Tobin, Marine Science Education Coordinator, attended the National Summit hosted by Restore America’s Estuaries and the Coastal Society.The overarching Summit theme of Inspiring Action, Creating Resilience was explored throughout the conference and integrated into keynote speakers as well as panels. The conference brought together the restoration and coastal management communities from across the nation for an integrated discussion to explore issues, solutions and lessons learned.   The Summit promoted conversation between scientists, advocates, and politicians about the ways in which restoration and management can help shape communities.

In addition to attending various workshops, Cassandra and Catie presented The Municipal Blue Star Program: Inspiring Resiliency in New Jersey Municipalities through Sustainable Actions during the conference poster session. The poster and presentation touched upon the success of the program and the ways in which COA implemented The Blue Star Program into New Jersey municipalities. Tying it into the greater issue of resiliency, Cassandra and Catie discussed ways in which the program can continue to grow with the help of great partners such as Sustainable Jersey and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Virtual Teach-In for Climate Change

A New Wave for Education

October marked the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy and the second anniversary for Clean Ocean Action’s Virtual Teach-In, which was created in response to Superstorm Sandy to educate coastal communities about the science behind extreme weather.

Teachers, Girl Scout leaders, environmental educators, and librarians joined the tide of educators throughout the tri-state area  through participating in the Virtual Teach-in during the week of October 27th. The students ranged from Kindergarten to 12th grade and were able to take something away from the lesson.
Resources and lesson plans were provided to the educators and were complete with videos, activities, and instructional aids. The topics included: Climate Change, Global Warming, Sea Level Rise, Your Carbon Footprint, Greenhouse Gasses, and the Science Behind Hurricanes and Superstorm Sandy.

This year, over 15 educators, ranging from 12 schools, 3 groups, and 1 Girl Scout Troop were able to virtually bring Clean Ocean Action resources into their classrooms to learn more about the science behind Superstorm Sandy, climate change, and sea level rise. COA hopes to expand its reach and materials in the upcoming years to educate as many students about this pressing issue as possible.  

“The Virtual Teach-In is an opportunity to emphasize the importance of education about extreme weather events,” said Catie Tobin, Marine Science Education Coordinator. “With resources ranging from pre-K to 12th grade, educators can reach a larger group of students and integrate lessons at any education level.”

The Virtual Teach-In emphasizes the need for continued outreach to educators in the wake of natural disasters, such as Superstorm Sandy. Science is ever-evolving and we encourage the topics taught in the classroom to reflect that.  This program provided fresh and innovative ways to reach students and teach them about pressing issues that most experience first hand.