South Students Aid in 34th Annual Coastal Cleanup

Conor Merrick | Editor-in-Chief |

Photos by: Conor Merrick

On a rainy, early Saturday morning on Dauphin Island, people could be seen walking along the soaked beach on a mission. Wearing rain jackets and rain boots, students and locals with trash bags and trash grabbers got to work cleaning up the shores along Bienville Boulevard.

MSSA members getting volunteers their equipment

On Saturday Sept. 18, the Marine Science Student Association (MSSA) led by Dr. Amy Sprinkle, accompanied by volunteers made up of South students, decided to spend their morning scouring the public beach of Dauphin Island for trash, picking up as much as they could. 

Dr. Amy Sprinkle and her marine science class

Starting at 8 a.m., students appeared at the check in location where students from the MSSA provided them with all their supplies and a free t-shirt. Students in Dr. Sprinkle’s Ocean Sciences class, MAS 134, were required to attend the beach cleanup for class. MAS 134 is also the first course required for an ocean sciences minor at South.

Student volunteers searching for litter

Dr. Sprinkle, a marine science professor at South, was in charge of the student groups while graduate student Allison Fletcher was in charge of locals checking in near Cadillac Square.

“Allison Fletcher is the zone captain for Dauphin Island and has largely been in charge of coordinating the event on the island and the MSSA at University of South Alabama has been charged with setting up a check in location at the public beach at Dauphin Island,” Dr. Sprinkle told The Vanguard.

The cleanup effort not only helps keep the beaches clean for visitors to Dauphin Island but also helps to protect the wildlife there. A common piece of litter found along the beach is microplastics, small pieces of plastic that can end up in the fish we eat, according to Dr. Sprinkle.

“Plastic never fully degrades. It just gets smaller and smaller and, because it floats, the sun photodegrades it and it breaks into tiny little pieces. So, we’re finding lots of that,” Dr. Sprinkle explained. “Unfortunately, plastic has been found all up the food chain. It can be ingested by these tiny little critters that get eaten by smaller fish, which get eaten by medium sized fish… all the way up to the fish we get in our grocery store.”

Students saw a variety of wildlife the cleanup would help protect, such as ghost crabs, stingrays and seagulls.

A baby ghost crab found on the beach

Approximately 350 locals filled over 40 bags of trash during the four hour event in the local volunteer zone, according to Fletcher. Approximately 100 students volunteered at the student volunteer zone, according to Dr. Sprinkle. The Vanguard interviewed some volunteers to find out what brought them to the event.

Kenneth Franklin, a student in Dr. Sprinkle’s marine biology course, and others at the event like Chameron Hope and Maya Saunders shared their thoughts. 

“I just felt it would be worth my time to come out here and help clean up the beach,” Franklin said.

“I’m part of MSSA, and I wanted to do something good for the community and make some friends while I’m at it. Also, there’s free T-shirts,” Saunders excitedly told The Vanguard. 

Saunders holding the trash she had collected

Hope, who returned to Coastal Cleanup for his second year, tells The Vanguard he’s very passionate about taking care of the environment, which is what brought him out to the event.

“I’m here to clean the beaches. I’m very much an environmentalist. I want to study the ocean and I can’t study the organisms in the ocean if they’re all dead because of trash. I love coming down to the beaches and being able to clean it up and help out the environment any way I can,” Hope told The Vanguard.

At the end of the event, the trash was loaded into a truck and taken off the beach. The picture below shows all the trash volunteers in the student zone collected.

All the trash students collected

Since 1987, the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources State Lands Division, Coastal Section, and the Alabama People Against A Littered State (PALS) have coordinated an effort to get citizens involved in keeping Alabama beaches clean, according to Dr. Sprinkle.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.