• Our Marine Plastic Debris / Tsunami Debris Project
    in 2014 Drake High was named a NOAA Ocean Guardian School

    Watch us at work. 
    These videos were submitted to the San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival's 3rd Annual Student Film Competition:

    https://vimeo.com/84106275  (This one, by Aria Schwartz, took second place at the Ocean Film Festival, and then went on to take second place at the 2014 My Hero International Film Festival, High School Documentary category.)
     collecting  back in the lab
    Do you like beachcombing?  Drake High does occasional patrols of Point Reyes Beach collecting, counting, weighing and photographing plastic debris and the species of marine organisms that stick to it.  We categorize it according to type and origin (recreational, commercial fishing, from foreign ships, from Japan, etc.) and the marine life according to whether it is Japanese, open ocean or Californian.  We can compare our results to data previously obtained on California Coastal Cleanup Day.

    The Great Beach at Point Reyes is not like other beaches.  This ten-mile stretch of sand faces northwest, directly into the prevailing westerlies and the California current.  Rocky points bracket it at each end.  Most of the items that wash up here are not local.  Some are from thousands of miles away.  Almost every object tells a story.  We've barely begun, but here are some of the kinds of items we find:

    Fishing and crabbing gear from Japan, China, Oregon and Northern California,
    Beverage bottles and food containers labeled for domestic consumption in China, Japan, Korea, India (these are most likely tossed overboard by the crews of international ships),
    Ball point pens and items with the names and logos of local businesses,
    a political campaign sign,
    large light bulbs from ships,
    children's shoes.

    You can estimate how long an object has been floating by the size of the pelagic barnacles on it.

    This project is also interesting because 2011 Japanese tsunami debris is still arriving in Oregon.  Maximenko and Hafner's model (ocean current) suggests a 2014 arrival, but Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham's model (current + wind) indicates 2012 (See 
    National Geographic January 2012.)  It looks like Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham were off the mark.

    Focus Questions:
    • How much of the debris on Point Reyes Beach comes from international shipping, local fishermen, beach goers, the tsunami, Oregon and Washington, etc?
    • When will the Japanese tsunami debris finally start to arrive here?
    • What categories of (high-floating?) tsunami debris objects will arrive first?
    • What can we learn from the marine organisms (barnacles, etc.) that encrust the debris?
    Debris collected on Point Reyes Beach November 2013 - April 2014
    Sir Francis Drake High School
    Description Number of Items / bags Total Weight (pounds) Identifying numbers, marks, corporate brands, languages
    5 gallon motor oil bucket; oil bottle 2 11 Chevron 
    crab pot buoys + rope 45 117  
    large foam pieces 16 28  
    bags of foam pieces 9 13  
    bags of plastic water bottles 8 19 Crystal Geyser, Gatorade
    bags of misc. plastic 4 24 Lays, Cheetos, Kraft
    bags of aluminum cans 3 4.7 Coke, Coors
    bags of glass bottles 6 77 Budweiser, Seagrams
    bags of crab bait boxes 2 10  
    bag of cleaning bottles 1 1.6 Clorox, Dawn
    bags of shoes and hats 2 20 Stride Rite
    bags of wood, paper, misc. trash 4 22  
    large net floats 7 33 Chinese, Japanese
    automobile tires 2 55  
    bow of small boat/ boat parts 3 59 CF 2589 HW
    misc. plastic pieces 42 85 Rubbermaid
    tools, plastic buckets 6 2.9 Durabeam
    steel propane bottles/ scrap metal 3 4.5 Coleman
    political sign 1 0.2 Sally Lieber for Senate
    Plastic bottle caps hundreds 4 Coke, Minute Maid
    light bulbs 7 1.5 General Electric
    metal spray cans 4 2  
    mylar balloons 31 1  
    plastic toys 44 2.2 Mattel
    pens 16 0.1 Bic
    oyster farming spacers 45 1  
    chewing tobacco tins 14 0.5 Copenhagen
    shotgun shell casings 177 1  
    balls; mostly tennis balls 25 3 Penn
    spoons and forks 15 0.2  
    drinking straws 113 0.2  
    medicinal, dental, personal care 45 1.3 Cortizone
    tampon applicators 8 0.1  
    cigarette lighters 21 0.6 Bic
    small net floats 14 1.5  
    sport fishing gear 23 7.8  
    duck decoy 1 1  
    water bottles from Asia 26 2 China, Japan, India, Malaysia
    TOTAL WEIGHT (pounds)   617.9  

Last Modified on July 3, 2015