Salt Marsh Soldiers Tackle Marine Debris in Coastal Georgia
A group of students with trash they collected.
The Glynn Middle School Salt Marsh Soldiers, after their first cleanup of the year. During this event, they successfully removed over 590 items and logged those items using the Marine Debris Tracker app. (Photo Credit: UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant)
A hand holding a metal can.
A Salt Marsh Soldier finds and removes a metal can from a tidal creek beside Glynn Middle School. (Photo Credit: UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant)
A group of students with debris they've collected.
A group of Salt Marsh Soldiers pause for a photo with Rachael Thompson (far left), project partner and outreach assistant for the Satilla Riverkeeper, and Katy Smith (far right), project lead and water quality program coordinator for UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. (Photo Credit: UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant)
Lea King-Badyna, project partner and executive director of Keep Golden Isles Beautiful, and project intern, Aria Colangelo, snap a photo with students after they learned about community solutions to prevent marine debris. (Photo Credit: UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant)

The University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant teamed up with the NOAA Marine Debris Program and teachers from Glynn Middle School in Brunswick, GA, which engaged middle school students in finding ways to reduce and prevent marine debris.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant

Region: Southeast

Project Dates: August 2016 - July 2017

Who is involved?
UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, with the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant, worked directly with middle school students and teachers at Glynn Middle School in Brunswick, Georgia, to reduce marine debris in an impacted area of coastal marsh near the school.

What is the project and why is it important?
Glynn Middle School is located near a highly-traversed roadway in Georgia, Coastal Highway 17, along several acres of sensitive marsh and tidal creek habitat. Due to high traffic volume, foam cups, food containers, plastic bags, and other land-based litter regularly accumulate along these roadways. Non-biodegradable items become lodged in the marsh grass, where they begin to break down and eventually get swept into surface waters during high tide and rain events.

To prevent this debris from impacting the marsh or washing out to sea, the school’s environmental club, Salt Marsh Soldiers, worked to remove debris and inspire other coastal citizens to get involved. They participated in monthly cleanups of a 1.2 mile stretch of the highway and adjoining areas, using the Marine Debris Tracker app to record the types and amounts of debris they collected and analyzed their data to help target solutions.

While cleanups are one solution to the global problem of marine debris, this project’s goal was to take education a step further toward innovation. Together with science teachers at Glynn Middle School and representatives from both university and community organizations, the project team visited seventh-grade classes quarterly to provide informative lectures, hands-on activities, and prompt discussions about solutions, with the aim of equipping students with critical thinking skills and increasing their capacity to engage in future problem-solving.

Project activities documented over the school year were incorporated into a short educational film, presented to students at the end of the school year. The film was premiered during the summer at a community film festival. Event attendees learned about the project’s success in removing trash from the environment and motivated event attendees to increase their engagement and stewardship. The film is now available to reach new audiences and inspire other individuals to help prevent marine debris.

Click the image for a larger display.

A hand holding a metal can.
A Salt Marsh Soldier finds and removes a metal can from a tidal creek beside Glynn Middle School. (Photo Credit: UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant)
A group of students with debris they've collected.
A group of Salt Marsh Soldiers pause for a photo with Rachael Thompson (far left), project partner and outreach assistant for the Satilla Riverkeeper, and Katy Smith (far right), project lead and water quality program coordinator for UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. (Photo Credit: UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant)
Lea King-Badyna, project partner and executive director of Keep Golden Isles Beautiful, and project intern, Aria Colangelo, snap a photo with students after they learned about community solutions to prevent marine debris. (Photo Credit: UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant)