The Sentinels Tackle Plastic Marine Debris

Sentinels gather at the shore to learn about coastal erosion.

Sentinels gather at the shore to learn about coastal erosion.


Throughout the fall of 2014 the Sentinels of Shoreline change were at it again. Starting with NOAA’s marine debris field guide we tailored a data collection protocol focused on plastic debris. Plastic debris in in the oceans has been a growing issue figuratively and literally. The Great Atlantic Garbage Patch hundreds of miles off the northeast coast of America is getting bigger and more attention is being paid to this and other garbage patches in our oceans. Along shorelines plastics are continually being washed onto beaches and back to sea.


NYC educators and NPS

NYC educators and NPS



A group of NYC educators and their students, in collaboration with the National Parks Service and Brooklyn College, took surveys of the plastics found on shorelines around Jamaica Bay. Students were given an introduction on the impact that shoreline stabilization structures have had on our beaches. Shoreline structures are often built along beaches that are losing sand due to erosion. Structures such as groins, jetties and seawalls alter the effects of the oceans waves. Unfortunately, they can also cause down-coast erosion issues. Students were asked to think about how these issues might affect the debris that washed up on shore.

Students mark their transect coordinates

Students mark their transect coordinates

Working in groups, students catalogued the types and quantity of plastics they collected in an area of the beach, which was measured and tracked using GPS coordinates. Though some days were colder than others, all of the groups worked diligently and felt a real sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. The effects of their hard work were immediately visible in the beautifully cleaned shorelines.

Student gathering data

Student gathering data

Students also need to be able to understand local impacts before being able to grapple with global problems. So they were asked to take their survey skills home and find out how the plastic they collected on the beach related to them  personally. By carefully tracking the plastic they used and discarded over a week students could then make underlying connections between themselves and the global plastic issue. Using the data they collected at home and on the beach some of the students from Brooklyn College presented posters at the Macaulay Honors College. A few entertaining PSA videos were also made to advocate recycling!

It is true the growing gyres of plastics in the ocean have been a concern for decades. However, quantifying how the local environment impacts them, and vice versa, is a continuing expedition. The Sentinels are continuing their work in the field to expand the database, including more shorelines. Ultimately this will help us to understand how the plastics we use end up in Jamaica Bay and the world’s oceans. Taking us all one step further in our quest to gain the knowledge required to begin finding solutions to our global plastic pollution problem.

To read more about the extent of plastics in our Oceans go to:

Further reading on the effects of shoreline structures:

For more information on NOAA’s survey field guide please visit:

The students PSA videos can be seen here:


Antioch College Students Plant Demo Restoration Area

Antioch student, Sarah Goldstein, installs native plants in a restoration area in Glen Helen.

Antioch student, Sarah Goldstein, installs native plants in a restoration area in Glen Helen.

This fall, Antioch College students in Environmental Science planted over 300 native plants into the demonstration restoration area at the Outdoor Education Center (OEC).  The plants were propagated by older adults from the Yellow Springs Senior Center last year.  The cycle has started again; fifth and sixth graders at the OEC learned about invasive plants and collected pounds of spicebush seeds for propagation this year.

Wildlife Conservation Society and Fordham University Project TRUE Cohort 1 Selected!

We have 12 students selected for the first Cohort of Project TRUE!! They start on Tuesday the 15th of October. We also have an undergrad and a graduate student. Project TRUE will start with a great group of Fordham University staff, students, and advisors, as well as Wildlife Conservation Society educators. Updates and pictures of students coming soon.

St. Mary’s students present mobile app storyboard for Lindsay Wildlife Museum

The five students from St. Mary’s College presented their storyboard for the mobile app they are developing for Lindsay Wildlife Museum. It’s been about one month since our initial meeting and the students really WOW’d us with the work they have done so far.

I am so impressed with how the students listened/understood the mission of the museum and applied that to their design. The app concept is functional and engaging. We do have limitations (ie, we do not have resources for a dedicated server to store data and the museum is lacking in dedicated IT support) and the students have considered all this in their design. We are finalizing the “look and feel” of the app and students will begin coding this week.

The pages below show an overview of their work. So proud!

Lindsay WildLife Museum app overview

LWM app overview p2

Saint Mary’s College App team visits Lindsay Wildlife


The Saint Mary’s College app creation team with Michele Setter


The Saint Mary’s College App team visited Lindsay Wildlife on September 8, 2013 for a behind the scenes introduction to the museum.   In addition to the informative walk through the exhibit hall and an introduction to the animal hospital facilities, team began a discussion of features to incorporate into the planned app.  The meeting represented a first visit to museum for many of the student app creation team.  The team observed the many animal ambassadors and as shown in the photo, a simple yet effective display of a bee hive.


The student team and their mentor agreed to have a storyboard presentation on the app on October 6, 2013.