Fresh Water testing for Microplastics begins!

Thru my WRPI/USDA grant I will be testing fresh water sources for microplastics, that flow to the ocean.  Ventura River, Perkins Estuary, Santa Clara River and Calleguas Creek will be the 4 main water sheds for testing at the river mouth into the ocean.  I am testing the soil as well as the water for the presence and abundance of microplastics.  Then I will be testing the watershed at its point source of pollution, which are the sewer treatment facilities that drain directly into 3/4 of these water sheds.

Threatened Western Snowy plovers and Endangered California Least Terns nest at the mouths of all of these water sheds as well as many other migrating water fowl.  I will be working with the Nest Monitor at Ormond beach where Perkins Estuary is located to possibly check hatched eggs for toxins as well.

I also have fresh water soil samples from watersheds in the Santa Monica Mountains that are not point source fed and have found micro plastics.  I am curious to see what the difference in abundance and types of particles we find in these different water sheds.  Hopefully with this information we can work on more policy change and infrastructure changes to the way we pollute our watersheds with plastic particles.


Training Undergrads in the Microplastics Lab!

Today I had a great group of undergraduates in the Microplastics lab learning how to process sand.  They all helped me organize and catalog the 100 plus samples we have gathered from all over the globe!  A few of them are thinking about continuing the project into their senior capstone and investigating the abundance of plastics across our global sandy beach ecosystem.


Ventura Surfrider Workday!

IMG_8963Sunday March 20th my brother and I took all of my nieces and nephews out to Ventura Point to work on the Ventura Surfrider Dune restoration project.

The learned about Ecosystem based management of the point and the native and non-native plants in the dunes.  At Ventura point we have seen a large difference in the loss of beach between the area where the dune project is in effect and about 200 feet south along the boardwalk.

VenturaPointSand Loss



Where the restoration project is located much of the beach has remained intact and south of there (seen in the photo to the right) most of the sand is gone and damage has been done to the walkways during the large storms this winter.




Audubon Presentation on Beaches are Habitat Too

This weekend I had a presentation table at the Ventura Audubon event for “Beaches are Habitat Too” at the Channel Islands Boating Center.  Dr. Clare Steele presented on Sandy Beaches as habitats for many species, including Sand crabs and other invertebrates.  This community based education seminar was set up by Ventura Audubon to educate the local homeowners about the threatened shore bird populations as well as other threats to the sandy beach ecosystem.

I had a table to share some of the Marine debris collected by my colleague Michaela Miller from the Santa Clara river mouth, along with our Pollutants Poster and some micro trash samples.  I brought the small digital scope with me to show people just how small these particles are.  I was able to explain what micro plastics are, where they tend to come from and why its important we pay attention to them as pollutants. Many of the folks I spoke with did not know what microbeads were or that there had been a ban and were very thankful for the information to make product changes at home.


Continuing to Collect Data

This week I was able to process a few more sample populations of Sand crabs and have found evidence of microparticle ingestion in every one.  Sadly the ubiquity of plastic pollution in the sandy beach ecosystem continues to be the case.  I have 24 sand crab sample populations processed and have approximately 20 more to finish.  I will be attending the CSU Chancellors conference this Tuesday March 8th with my colleague, Tevin Schmitt.  We will be discussing our individual research projects on how petroleum bed pollution takes its toll on the sandy beach ecosystem.






Ormond Beach Clean up for the Threatened Snowy Plover

Had a great time on Saturday working with Ventura Surfrider and Ventura Audubon to clean up the nesting area for the threatened Snowy Plover at Ormond beach.  This is my second season working with the local nest monitor for the Western Snowy Plover and California Least Tern.  I brought my niece and nephews out to learn about the habitat and why picking up trash is so important.


Samples from the remote end of Santa Cruz Island!

Michaela MillerRobyn Shea (our research coordinator) and I were able to go to the west end of Santa Cruz Island for a quick trip this weekend.  This end of the island is owned by the Nature Conservancy and is travelled only by researchers with special permission.  We arrived on island Friday afternoon and left Saturday.  Even though our trip was lightning fast we were able to collect data for both projects from Christy’s Beach, Sauces Beach and Frasier Point on the west end of the island. Due to the earliness of the season I was only able to find adult crabs on one of the beaches but did collect sand from all three.