SOAR has a serious side in its missions to help kids find ways of helping the ocean and watersheds throughout the world. I started on having seen hundreds of albatrosses killed by plastic debris at Pihemanu (Midway Atoll). I was inspired by the questions of young people in Ohio and by USFWS biologists working hard to protect endangered species and damaged habitats.

SOAR has a very fun and tough to define side.....thanks to FRED AND FRIENDS, Project SOAR helps with watershed and ocean workshops throughout the world, and generally makes people smile while they learn some tough stuff about how we treat our rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and the one ocean on planet earth..........


SOAR introduces young people to ways they can make a difference in their local community and the wider world.

Take advantage by:

1) Invite a SOAR learning kit or bring Ron Hirschi to your school as a guest author or speaker for your organization. Ron has many years experience as an author and as a biologist. SOAR adds another dimension to his list of hands on projects he shares in writing, art, and ecology workshops.

Many schools invite Ron for his work as author of more than 50 nonfiction books, including many with ocean themes. Others bring him to school as a scientist or artist, but the best fit is always when schools use Ron to help them integrate curriculum.

Tom Bates, Principal at Tremont Elementary in Ohio recently said in an interview following Ron's visit, "What stood out to me was how Ron was able to gear his activities and discussion and information so it was meaningful to the students, whether they were in kindergarten or fifth grade."

Be in touch at whalemail@waypoint.com for visit information.

2) SOAR now has a new kit circling the globe along with a Laysan Albatross "Friend of Fred". This duo is packaged with a box full of ideas, activities, information about Papahanaumokuakea, ocean debris, and other materials aimed at sparking new projects related to the sea. Also included is a journal chronicling Fred's adventures, all of which began when kids at Columbus School for Girls (CSG) learned how they could take action to help the ocean.

Currently, this treasured package is in the hands of The Bush School in Seattle.

NOTE: You might also be lucky to receive one of the earlier packages with a FRED and Friend, already traveling. To date, Fred has visited Australia, Switzerland, Israel, England, The Dominican Republic, and many corners of the United States.

13 November 2009

Project Serious Sand - Kauai Update

Sand was collected on Kauai beaches from 28 October to 6 November 2009. It was placed in containers for use by others, but one film cannister full from each beach was scooped from the upper intertidal. The contents were placed in a glass bowl, water was added to cover as in previous beach studies. The surface of the water was then scanned with a 10X magnifier for any plastic that floats out from the more dense sands, rocks, shells, and pieces of coral.

Sand was collected around the island, but most from windward side beaches. This was partly to see if I got the same results as another study talked about below.


A total of Nine beaches were sampled. Five of these tested positive for micro plastic in the samples taken this fall. The largest amount (44 pieces of small bits of mostly blue plastic) was seen in the sample from the southern end of Aliomanu Beach nearest the town of Anahola and the wonderful stop at Duane's Ono Charbroil Burger stand where the Shoyu Burger shines.

I gotta add here that Duane's uses cardboard, paper, and pretty much no plastic. Mahalo Duane's.

Plastic was found at these beaches:

Haena  (1 piece)
Papaa Bay (9 pieces) For you fans of movies, the site of Harrison Ford and Ann Heche crashing in Six days and Seven Nights.
Aliomanu North (9 pieces of plastic)
Aliomanu South
Anahola North (3 Pieces of Plastic)

Plastic was not seen in the following beach samples:

Lumahai  (But you must see the beautiful sparkling peridot that does make up a lot of this sand.) Lumahai is a very powerful place with high wave energy and no protecting reef. The day the samples were taken, the front of the beach had been carved so that a ten foot vertical wall of sand faced the ocean as the tide dropped. The day before, this same beach front was a gentle, gradual slope. The "upper intertidal" is a wide swath of wind and wave swept beach where many people die each year when a sudden wave washes them away. Still, it is one of the best boogie board beaches and local kids love this spot. So do barracudas, common inches from the edge of the beach. 

Anini (Anini Beach rests within the protected rim of coral reef that is the longest in the Hawaiian Islands. This reef protects the beach from a lot of wind driven wave action and deposition of plastic and other objects is far less than other, more exposed beaches)

Moloa'a Bay southshore (Moloa'a is the first place I ever saw or recognized seeing micro plastic. It was in the form of nurdles, most probably washed away from a cargo ship enroute to becoming some kind of plastic product. This was several years ago when most of us thought most micro plastics floated ashore from ships. Moloa'a has some pretty high energy wind driven waves, but the bay is far more protected from drift moving up and down the island than, say, Aliomanu.

Port Allen pocket beach (Port Allen is on the south side of the island. A lot of debris accumulates here, but not so much as on the windward side of the island.

One additional piece of small plastic was observed in the samples taken. Remember Jacks? The game with the little playing pieces you place on the floor, then scoop up after bouncing and catching a ball? When my daughter was young, these were made of metal. Now, they are plastic. I scooped up a yellow Jacks (Jack?) in one of the sample......


It is not surprising to find micro plastic in Kauai beaches, especially in the fall when winds increase and movement of material accelerates along drift cells. Kauai rests within the North Pacific Central Gyre where floating plastic is well documented in the literature (Moore et al 2001; Pichel et al 2007 - complete refs available if you are interested) and now, in popular press (Rolling Stone October 29, 2009 has a pretty good account and many links on this site will take you there, literally).

I did not see micro plastic in the samples at Moloa'a although there was visible micro plastic here and there on the beach, noticed while coming and going on several occasions. In past visits to Moloa'a the beach was littered with nurdles and a lot of large plastic. This is one beach where locals have spent a lot of time cleaning up the beach. Mahalo Kauai!!!

In general all beaches of the island were cleaner than I have seen in twenty years of "casual" observation. Recent large scale beach cleanups have taken place. This rids the beaches of plastic that eventually is ground down into smaller pieces, but as pointed out in studies (Corcoran et al 2008 is focused on some of these same beaches), the micro plastics enter the beach in many ways. Low density plastic pieces can float onto the beach, but they break into small pieces as they are mechanically broken down along the beach.

The larger concentrations of microplastics seen in my study are similar to those of Corcoran et al. Their study suggests that plastics enter these beaches (all high concentration of plastics on the eastern shore of Kauai) more than others because of the way ocean currents wash against and along the shores of the island. They also suggest that more plastic accumulates here, but my experience suggests that large volumes also accumulate from Port Allen to Salt Ponds at Hanapepe along the south shore. I did not get out to Polihale along the west shore where no plastic was found in the Corcoran study, but where it would be expected mainly due to the long, unprotected sandy beach aka Barking Sands. More study needed?

The important thing here seems to be that micro plastics are a major part of at least the eastern shores of Kauai. Beach cleanups have helped reduce local supplies of large plastics that break down as they move along the shore. But plastic reaches the island in many ways and will continue to fall on the shores from the Pacific.

I talked with many people while collecting sand and while surfing, fishing, and just being on island. No one I talked with was aware of micro plastics. No one knew anything about Papahanaumokuakea, Pihemanu, or the death of marine life by plastics. This included locals and visitors. But as I left island, I had two nice conversations in the Lihue Airport. I was having my picture taken with Fred by a big window display about Papahanaumokuakea. People were, as always, taken by Fred and I pointed out the display to them. While they absorbed information about the National Monument, I showed them Fred's leg band. In Memory of X310 these people now know a lot about ocean plastics and the great place called Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Funny how a little monkey can teach so much to people like them and even the nice lady at the car rental check out...........Thanks for all your help Fred and for taking me out of the water long enough to collect these samples.         

No comments:

X310 Plastic Ocean Activity

It's me, Fred, the Monkey.

If you look closely, you can see I wear X310's leg band around my neck. It's to remind me of her. She was a Laysan Albatross. She was born in March 2008 and lived on Pihemanu, one of the most remote atolls on earth, now part of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

You can wonder about Pihemanu and about X310. She didn't live very long, dying in June 2008. Her parents flew thousands and thousands of miles finding food for her. But x310, like lots of baby albatrosses died before she got to soar the seas. Some albatrosses fly three million miles during their life. Like X310's parents, their sea is a new challenge in food finding because of our actions on land.

Adult albatrosses fly more than a thousand miles just to get a single meal for their babies. But the ocean is full of plastic. And if you read my buddy, Ron's blog and website, you learn about plastic in the sea. It is everywhere and babies like X310 die because they eat so much plastic, they can not get it out of their stomachs.

Where's all this plastic come from?
Where does it go?

Here is a simple activity:

Get up from your chair and walk around the classroom or wherever you are sitting.

Write down each thing around you that is made of plastic.

Everybody compare lists and make a total of the plastic products.

Now, the hard part of this activity:

Can you find alternatives for the things you use, alternatives not made of plastic?
Maybe start with drinking water from a fountain or glass or reuseable container?
Maybe start a really good recycling project?
Maybe make some art from recycled plastic?
Learn more on links here on this site and others.
Talk about times with no plastic.
X310 would have appreciated if people, just a few years ago had decided to make a plastic-free world for you....
You and X310.

Learn how you can SOAR with FRED by arranging a visit with Fred and his ocean teaching kit by emailing his banana provider at whalemail@waypoint.com


What you need:

Pint size plastic beverage container with wide mouth (about 1.5 inches) ---This approximates the size of a baby albatross stomach and esophagus.

Important to have the lid too.

Enough plastic items (bottle caps, toothbrush, legos, fishing line, small chunks of nylon rope, markers, pens, more bottle caps and even a few more bottle caps since they are pretty much the most common marine debris.

Talk with your audience of kids of any age about ocean debris and the way adult albatrosses fly out a few hundred or even a thousand miles to find flying fish eggs and squid for the little ones. They return to Pihe Manu or up on the Northeast shore of Kauai, find their young one among thousands of others and begin to feed by regurgitating "food".......

As you talk about this, have the kids place one or two pieces of the plastic into the bottle.

Replace cap with each addition of plastic. Shake gently to mimic bird moving around the nesting area a bit.

Remove cap. Shake gently to mimic the bird trying to dislodge "food" that can not be digested. In a perfect ocean, this would be squid beaks, fish bones, or other natural pieces of food.

Add more plastic, repeating above until no plastic falls out of the bottle when cap is removed (bill is opened) and the bird tries and tries, but can not toss up the mass of debris. See how much and how many different kinds of plastic can be added. Does the rope tangle with the legos and bottle caps. Do five bottle caps cause a blockage in the esophagus???

In nature, the upchucked mass is like an owl pellet and is known as a bolus. Natural foods slip freely through the esophagus and more feeding can continue. Most times, a baby albatross will toss up one bolus before leaving the nesting island. Unfortunately, thousands die because plastic blocks the stomach completely.

Your feeding the baby albatross activity can lead to a lot of discussion of plastics we use, discard, then find their way into the ocean and into the mouth of a baby albatross.

If you want to have a Baby Albatross Feeding Kit, complete with some plastic items that actually came from once living albatross at Pihe Manu, Papahanaumokuakea, be in touch.