Cleaning up the Beaches

By Lauren Voigtlander
Flapjack Chronicle

Mad River Beach in Arcata, Calif.
Mad River Beach in Arcata, Calif.

Rain or shine does not stop HSU’s Marine Debris Program from cleaning up Humboldt County’s beaches. Every month Anna Neumann, 22, oceanography major, gathers volunteers at two locations in Humboldt County to do beach clean ups. This effort is not merely a public service to keep the beaches clean though. It is an effort by Neumann to log and record what is being littered on the beach.

“I have two sites I clean every month, I have north jetty and mad river beach,” said Neumann. “And I take down the data from those two sights.”

Neumann has cleaning these beaches down to a science.

“I try to clean them every 28 days or so,” said Neumann. “When I do a clean up I take an area measurement so that I know how much trash has accumulated in that area in that unit of time.”

Neumann works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in compiling the data from her beach sites and putting the information into their database to gain a perspective on where the beach litter is coming from.

“The NOAA have their marine database that has sites all up and down the west coast as well as the east coast,” said Neumann.

Neumann has a group of regulars that usually come with her as well.

“I try to go every time she has a clean up,” said Megan Demcak, 21. “I think I have only missed one or two clean ups.”

Demcak is also an oceanography major and a good friend of Neumann’s, she strongly believes in the program that Neumann has created.

“I believe that it is very important to keep our beaches clean,” said Demcak. “And it is important to find any tsunami remnants, which is also something that the program does.”

Each beach clean up has anywhere from 5 to 20 volunteers come out and they with walk the beaches for about two hours. Neumann supplies buckets and reusable gloves in an effort to keep down the amount of waste that she uses during the clean up. After compiling all the litter and recording it in her database she tries to recycle as much of the waste as she can, but she acquires some interesting things on the beach.

“Mad River is a unique site, because a lot people who go out there have bonfires and burn pallets,” said Neumann. “So right now I have removed about 5,000 to 6,000 nails from Mad River Beach.”

Ideally after graduating, Neumann would like to hire another student to take over the program and eventually use the information to help prevent litter on the Humboldt beaches. But for now she is merely working to compile as much data as she can.

“Currently Humboldt County has no long term data set for debris coming into it,” said Neumann. “Where we are located as the currents come into the area we get hit first. The sea pushes a lot of debris onto our shores.”

So for now, the Marine Debris Program is both cleaning up and learning from the Humboldt beaches.

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