Improving Critical Habitats in the Channel Islands

Three people hiking together through hills overlooking an ocean beach.

A team of researchers from California State University Channel Islands will remove and track the amounts and types of shoreline debris at seven remote beaches on the Northern Channel Islands offshore of southern California.

Type of Project: Removal

Region: California

Project Dates: September 2020 - September 2023

Who is involved?
With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, researchers from the California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) Santa Rosa Island Research Station and Environmental Science and Research Management Program are working with student veterans and members of historically underrepresented groups to remove and assess the amounts, types, and sources of marine debris on the Channel Islands.

What is the project and why is it important?
The Channel Islands are located within 60 miles of major population centers in Southern California, but are isolated protected areas that serve as habitat for endangered birds, four species of pinnipeds (California sea lions, northern fur seals, harbor seals, and northern elephant seals), and endemic island foxes that don’t live anywhere else in the world. Marine debris is a common site on island shorelines, including lost fishing gear, consumer debris, and microplastics. 

This three-year project will monitor and remove debris from seven remote beaches on the Channel Islands, California. Each site will be visited twice per year, and a total of 12,000 pounds of debris is expected to be removed. This effort will expand a baseline dataset on debris accumulation in the Channel Islands that was initiated under a 2016 NOAA Marine Debris Program removal grant. Plastic debris samples will be taken back to the lab and identified to the polymer type using Attenuated Total Reflection Fourier-transform Infrared Spectroscopy. Researchers will use this data to create a profile of plastic polymer types present at these island sites to assist with source identification and inform management and policy changes to reduce marine debris. CSUCI will recruit student volunteers to participate in the field work, including veterans and members of historically underserved groups, and provide the recovered debris to the university's art program for students to use in sculptures that will be presented at local art galleries.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.