Nurdle Patrol at Saint Stanislaus

Drew West, United States and Saint Stanislaus Marine Science Interns
Last year the Saint Stanislaus (SSC) Marine Science Program started participating in a citizen science beach cleanup program known as Nurdle Patrol. Nurdle Patrol is lead by the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas. Nurdles are small plastic pellets used in the production of larger plastic items. Specifically, they are microplastics, measuring less than 5 mm in size. These pellets are washing up onto beaches and coastlines all around the world and Nurdle Patrol is specifically trying to locate where they are washing up in the Gulf of Mexico. Marine organisms can mistake nurdles for food sources and nurdles are also known to absorb toxic chemicals in the environment. To help combat this issue, as well as to regularly contribute to scientific data collection in the Gulf of Mexico Region, our students hunt for nurdles in the sand right in front of our school. After every hunt the nurdles are counted and the data (nurdles/person/minutes) is submitted to the Nurdle Patrol website. From there our partner Jace Tunnell, Director of the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Reserve, collects monthly data and enters it into a spreadsheet and onto a map that shows the concentrations of nurdles collected. These maps are then given to state and federal regulatory agencies to work on stricter permit requirements for pellet manufacturers and transporters. Last year, the SSC Marine Science Program collected 10,870 nurdles from February 25, 2019 - May 20, 2019. To date we have a total of 14,791 nurdles. Additionally our Marine Science Interns are working with two SSC alums on designing an autonomous vehicle that is capable of removing nurdles from the water column.