Trip to Midway Sparks Project Serious Sand

Reef fish abound at Rapture Reef of French Frigate Shoals, (c) James Watt

Reef fish abound at Rapture Reef of French Frigate Shoals, (c) James Watt

A fellow marine educator, Ron Hirschi, was recently honored with a trip to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. He was kind enough to detail his excursion on his own blog but his time spent on Midway Atoll particularly sparked a single great idea: Project Serious Sand.

As he recently wrote on the National Marine Educators Association listserv:

Hello All Sand Collectors and others interested in Plastic Toxicity in our Seas! Just back from Midway where I was overwhelmed by the death by plastic of hundreds of Albatross. I opened a film cannister I had filled with beach sand on Sand Island within the Atoll. To my surprise, the beautiful white sand was laced with red, blue, and lavender flecks — tiny bits of toxic plastic working their way into the micro-world. This was new to me and after having learned how plastics absorb pcbs and other toxins, I thought about a new project called Serious Sand.

Please collect a small container of sand from a convergence beach zone near you or where you vacation this summer. You will know a convergence zone along a beach — it is where two drift cells collide, usually creating our most favorite beach areas known as Points, spits, or hooks.
Just like the convergence zones in the open ocean, these beach sites collect debris, acting to concentrate macro and micro pieces of plastic. They are some of our more famous beaches and often have lighthouses or a bunch of fishermen tossing their favorite lure.

I think this is an exceptionally worthwhile endeavor and I’m hoping to further interest in Ron’s project by posting it on WaterNotes. If you would like to send him samples please contact me ( and I’m happy to forward on Ron’s contact information.