Science class on the beach

LIHUE — Kauai High School students and 15 organizations removed fish nets and heavy debris from Lydgate Park on Sept. 25.

As part of Marine Debris Awareness week, 87 KHS students of 11th and 12th grade marine science class and their teacher, Paul Crowe, took part in the event.

The students removed 1,931 pounds of marine debris along Nukolii Beach, and collected and analzyed data about the types of debris removed and made conclusions on their findings.

“This was a great project,” Crowe said. “Students were able to develop their scientific investigation skills in an authentic way while at the same time working with community members to address the marine debris problem.”

Scott Bacon and Howatt King facilitated the science project as the Malama Na Apapa’s Education outreach team in collaboration with Crowe. They taught students of the negative impacts of marine debris on the marine ecosystem in a three-day project.

“This type of project brings science to life for students as they learn how science taught in the classroom is applied outside in the real world,” Bacon said. “It broadens their comprehension of science principles through hands-on science experiments and they also gain an awareness and connection to the environment while preserving it through stewardship.”

While on the beach the students worked to determine if the majority of marine debris removed from Nukolii beach was land based (from Kauai) or ocean based (floated here by currents).

After a day of picking up marine debris from Nukolii Beach, students determined that 66 percent of the marine debris they removed was land based. Around 731 pounds of the debris was one commercial fishing net that was half buried in the beach sand fronting Kauai Beach Villas.

Twenty students dug out the net and weighed it in pieces to collect data for their science project.

Ghost nets can entangle and drown other marine life such as green sea turtles, seals, dolphins and whales. They transport invasive species that take over and push out endemic species.

“Without healthy corals we would not have beautiful reefs to snorkel and dive at,” Bacon said. “Our favorite sea creatures such as turtles, sea horses, frog fish, angel fish, lobsters and octopus would disappear.”

Most of the debris recorded were small pieces of plastic. When consumed in large quantities it can kill fish, birds and turtles by obstructing or puncturing digestive tracks.

Info: scottbacon@kauaicoral.com

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