Cultivating Santa Barbara Channel Stewards
Debris on Tecelote Beach, Santa Rosa Island.
Debris accumulates on Tecelote Beach, Santa Rosa Island. (Photo Credit: Michaela Miller)

Staff and students from California State University Channel Islands are teaming up with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to conduct debris removal and monitoring on island and mainland shorelines while also developing formal and informal marine debris curriculum and community outreach projects at the K-12 and undergraduate levels.

Type of Project: Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant

Region: California

Project Dates: August 2016 - December 2018

Who is involved?
With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, researchers from California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) and the Channel Islands National Park are conducting marine debris removal and shoreline surveys on Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, and mainland sites near Oxnard, California, to quantify and monitor island marine debris in comparison to mainland marine debris.  CSUCI project leads are also working with local junior high and high schools to develop informal and formal marine debris curriculum and develop marine debris community outreach projects at the K-12 and undergraduate levels to help develop the next generation of Santa Barbara Channel Stewards. Lastly, project leads are coordinating with the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary on lobster trap removal and outreach to the lobster fishing community.

What is the project and why is it important?
The Channel Islands are a unique place to monitor marine debris. These islands are situated within 60 miles of 18 million people, yet harbor 175 miles of undeveloped coastline and habitat for numerous marine mammals, threatened bird species, and a variety of species unique to that area. A number of factors influence the accumulation of marine debris on these islands. Aside from the nearby highly populated mainland coast, the Channel Islands are surrounded by extensive commercial and recreational fisheries, international commercial shipping lanes, as well as other factors resulting in a variety of types, sources, and abundances of debris found on Channel Island shorelines.

This project is working to clear shoreline sites of debris on Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands and mainland beaches in Oxnard, California, to assess the types and accumulation rates of large debris (>2.5 cm) according to NOAA’s Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project protocols. Concurrent surveys are also assessing microdebris (< 5mm) as well as the ecological benefits from debris removal. Santa Rosa Island beaches were last surveyed in 1993, and a historical comparison will provide information on the changes in marine debris characteristics over a 27-year period. Project staff are also engaging the local community through outreach to K-12 and undergraduate students to support the cultivation of a community of Santa Barbara Channel stewards, which are providing 1,200 volunteer hours from a group of 300 volunteers.

For more information on this project, check out the Marine Debris Clearinghouse.