AFS Student Chapter Holds First of Three Annual Beach Cleanups

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Islanders representing the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Student Subunit of the American Fisheries Society chapter and the Islander Green Team held an early spring beach clean-up on Sunday, Feb. 24, at University Beach. Volunteers found several pounds of plastic and trash and even a buoy over the course of the cleanup.

The beach, which is located in front of The Island University on Ward Island, was constructed in 2001 and is one of the Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act (CEPRA) Beach Monitoring Program’s first beach restoration projects. The monitoring program is funded by CEPRA, which is administered by the Texas General Land Office (TGLO) in coordination with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

The cleanup comes on the heels of the new Adopt-A-Beach sign for the AFS chapter, which was installed on the beach this month by the Conrad Blucher Institute For Surveying and Science as part of the TGLO program. Chapter spokesperson Polly Hajovsky said the chapter adopted the beach two years ago.

“We have a lot of fisheries biologists in our club and to us, it’s important to come out and clean our beaches because this is what’s in our water, it’s washing up and we need to keep our beach nice and clean. When we have big rain events, that can wash out waste back into the bay.”

Hajovsky, a graduate student, said the cleanup also reflected a personal interest.

“I study micro-plastics, so this is very important to me because when we have plastic pieces washing up on the beach, they get stressed out by UV rays from the sun. They become brittle and then they break down so when we have the rain event, it just washes back out,” she said. “I’m doing a baseline study of Corpus Christi Bay and Laguna Madre to see if the organisms are feeding on plastic so this ties into my thesis. I want to make sure litter gets picked up, so we can hopefully stop this problem.”

Hajovsky said the AFS chapter hosts three beach cleanups annually and invited nonmajors to take part in the effort. For more information, students are invited to the next monthly meeting, which is at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5, in the University Center Jetty Room. For more information on water quality monitored at state beaches, go to Texas Beach Watch

In related news, Dr. Jennifer Pollack's BIOL 4436 marine ecology students are collecting "nurdles," which are small pellets of plastic that are the raw material for the manufacturing of plastic products, from Mustang Island beaches as part of a semesterlong project on plastic pollution. Pollack, associate professor of marine biology, serves as the Harte Research Institute Chair for Coastal Conservation & Renovation. The project began in February and runs through March.