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Expedition STEM for the Ocean: Maine!

July 16 2017

Sailing with the Rozalia Project on the American Promise, we'll travel up the coast of Maine, working with local communities to develop solutions for keeping trash out of the ocean along the way!

July 16 2017


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Mission Underway

Hurricane Island and Greens Island are a really beautiful part of Maine, I can't believe I was brought here to pick up trash. However, the collection has been strong with us these past few days, despite a little inclement weather (not pictured).

We were supposed to take an off day on Sunday after our sail here, but decided that the seaweed mat brought in by the northerly wind was too full of debris to resist. Armed with a few dinghies, gloves, and oars, we spent the morning cleaning 432 pieces of trash out of the seaweed. We saw some great big lions' mane jellies and got some help from a few kids that were hanging around the island.

Afternoon was ROV time, and I'm psyched to have gotten the opportunity to fly the VideoRay that Rozalia has on board. We explored the local sea floor, around 30ft down, and watched some lobsters and sculpin doing their thing. Apparently there is a lobster crawl going on right now, as they come to shallower water for molting and mating. It certainly explains the pieces of molt and shell that we've been finding along with the plastic on the beach.

We got to see something pretty special the last few nights while moored: bioluminescence! It was super bright on Saturday night, and we spent half an hour in the dinghy hammering around and splashing like little kids, watching the sparkles trail behind us. We did also catch two of the little dinoflagellates in a cup that we found floating by, and we're going to put them under the microscope we have on board!

Today and yesterday, we cleaned up a couple of beaches on Greens Island. One beach we cleaned with some friends, and came away with 1972 pieces of debris from a --- stretch of shoreline. Today's cleanup was just the crew, but we pulled out 826 pieces from the two beaches on opposing sides of Heron Neck, an isthmus connecting the large part of the island to a smelly rocky bit where the lighthouse is.

We ended up today with a hike up to sunset rocks on Hurricane Island. It was a nice time for me to reflect on the trip so far - we're halfway through for those of us staying the whole first expedition. I'll be off the boat on August 3rd, and Rozalia will take a break before their second trip of the season down into Massachusetts. I'm having a spectacular time so far, and I really appreciate the ways in which working with this crew is opening my mind. I don't think I'll ever again leave for an outdoor activity without gloves and a trash bag, and I love that we can make debris cleanup both a fun way to engage with the outdoors and a purposeful method of collecting data.

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After a foggy transit to Boothbay, we continued our work with the kids, both young and old!

The little mizzens finished their creative projects around the marine debris they found, and presented them for their families and the staff. One group made a play about a fish doctor, who saves fish who've eaten plastic (gosh we need that). One group told the story of a piece of sea glass, which had apparently come from Turkey as a bottle, which broke during a sailing trip. Band Ahoy! had a spectacular first performance and totally rocked the house.

The older kids got to sort through another cleanup that we did, and then really got into solutions that they could implement themselves. One kid, who's a fisherman, really hates seeing fishing line thrown into the water. So, he's making a sign with an attached trash container, to put at his local fishing spot. I'm really excited about this idea, because it's a clear way for him to work on a local problem and make a difference.

After finishing up with the kids, we had a chance to get out to Damariscove Island, a historic site that hosted some of the earliest American settlers. It was a great haul, with 327 pieces of trash including a person-sized foam block and 12 balloon pieces over a fifth of a mile of beach.

It was sad to leave Boothbay and the kids behind, but we did finally get to sail yesterday on our transit to Hurricane Island! We got all three sails up and made 5-7 knots for most of the trip, dodging lobster buoys all the way. Learning the ropes is an interesting challenge, and Promise is a wonderful boat to sail on. Can't wait to work with the whole group here at Hurricane Island!

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Day 1 of the teaching program!

We didn't get underway today, because of some very soupy fog. Instead we took a road trip up to the Booth Bay Sea and Science Center, where we'll be working with some Mizzens (5-9 years old) and Stays'ls (10-14 years old). The plan is to sail up there tomorrow and continue the program with the kids on Thursday.

We got ready in the morning by sorting out our curriculum for the day: The group is trying to push the curriculum a little bit further this year and tune it in so that it has a real impact with the kids. We made some games for them to play, decided on the structure of the talk, and then figured out our teams for when we split them into small groups. After the morning meeting, there was a safety briefing and lunch preparation. Talking through man overboard drills on a sailboat really steels the nerves! I'm still hoping for some exciting time underway, though maybe not too exciting.

At Booth Bay, we got started with a bang! The kids were super engaged and almost immediately started talking about the debris issues they see in their area, like old foam falling off the docks and into the ocean. Ashley and my little group had a lot of fun playing "I'm going to a cleanup" and trying to remember all the pieces of trash that their groupmates had mentioned. I found out my memory is even worse than I thought. We also had the kids un-jumble a quote from the Lorax, and discovered some serious Dr. Seuss fans.

After the introductory games, it was on to the Data Cleanup. The data cleanup is a simple idea - we clean an area, then count and catalog the debris that we find. The area that we cleaned with the kids today had been cleaned last year and a few years earlier, so we'll be able to compare the trash across that time. The kids did great, though the smallest ones had a little trouble with the gloves.

To bring it to the next level with the kids, Rachael wanted to have an element of creativity in the program. With the older kids, this can be focusing on real solutions they can work on in their communities. With the younger kids, we left it a little more open, so each of the three groups came up with something different. My group is forming a band using instruments made from the debris we found - it's called Band Ahoy! and I can't wait to perform with them on Thursday!

Back on the boat we honored the tradition of American Promise by watching Around Alone, the movie about Dodge Morgan and his solo circumnavigation under sail. What a heavy film! Definitely recommend watching it, especially if you can do it while ON the boat!

That's all for today, gonna get some rest so I can help sailing tomorrow!

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Nice! Where do you report and record the debris data?

We record the data publicly on the Marine Debris Tracker app, the data card that we use is also available there for people to use on their own cleanup efforts!
Preparation Stage

Today we got aboard the American Promise, provisioned for the expedition, and met our fellow amazing crew and volunteer sailors!

The ship was launched last week from its winter perch out of the water, and Rachael, Brooke, and Ashley were hard at work dusting 'er off, rigging, and prepping for the expedition season. It looks amazing, and I'm really excited to be on a sailing ship this big. 60 feet long! It's also a pretty storied boat - at one point, it held the world record for the fastest solo sail around the world.

The people onboard are even more exciting. There's people from all over the US, including Alaska, and from many backgrounds - education, science, art, you name it! It's going to be really interesting getting to know everyone over the course of the next two weeks.

Our preparations for the day included getting a tour of the boat, doing a fun scavenger hunt to find critical things like life jackets and fire extinguishers, and provisioning for the trip. I'll be working as the food captain, so I got to go shopping with a couple of the other volunteers and bring back all the goods for this week.

After the food, other equipment, and our personal effects were on board, we got together to get introduced and learn more about our schedule for the week and our mission as an expedition. It's late now, but I'll update tomorrow with more details as we get started!

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Expedition Background

My name is Manyu, and I'll be a volunteer scientist on this year's expedition STEM for the ocean!

Here's a little background from the Rozalia Project website:

Underwater robots, drones, 3D printers, whales, puffins, ocean trash, R&D, inspiration and the greenest sailing research vessel in the world. This is what drives Expedition STEM for the Ocean: a cleanup, education and innovation program delivered from American Promise, to inspire young boaters and coastal residents to be an active part of the solution to marine debris in the near term through this program and in the long term by entering science, technology, engineering and math fields with an ocean or environmental focus.

We launched this program in 2016 as a pilot and were very excited by the results – see the video from Expedition STEM for the Ocean at the Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership above. In 2017, we aim for further refine the activities, develop more solutions and inspire even more people!

Expedition STEM for the Ocean’s goals:

  • Through the program, develop solutions to local marine debris problems that can also be shared in other areas.
  • To inspire behavior change in sailors and coastal residents of all ages through an engaging and unique marine debris, STEM and solutions - program.
  • To inspire young people to consider careers in STEM for the ocean.

I hope I can document where we're traveling, what we're seeing, and who we're meeting along the way, so you can follow along and be inspired to do something about ocean and waterway trash in your community!

Awesome Manyu! Looking forward to seeing how expedition-based awareness works for this issue.