Students’ Research on Marine Debris Pushes Legislation Forward
The Connecticut shoreline is a popular destination to escape the midsummer heat, fish, and have fun. But how clean are the state’s beaches? Students in Assistant Professor Katharine Owens’s “Marine Debris: Policy and Action” class spent a semester conducting research to answer that question. Then they presented their findings to lawmakers, including State Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr., who chairs the legislature’s Environment Committee, at Hammonasset Beach State Park in June.
Surrounded by cameras from local TV stations and Assistant Professor Owens, Gabrielle Dabrowski ’17 and Isabelle Barere ’17 explained how they and their classmates found 1,600 items of trash on three beaches in just six hours. The debris included fishing lines, plastic cups, golf balls and much more. Approximately 76 percent of the debris was plastic from consumer products, which can cause problems for the health of the fish that we eat and other marine wildlife. Plastics also damage water resources and impact the economy because of the high cost of cleanup and recycling.
“It is really important for the community to deal with these issues,” says Gabrielle, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y. majoring in biology and chemistry. Senator Kennedy agrees.
“I was really impressed by the work of the students in Professor Owens’s class,” says Senator Kennedy. “I am going to take the research back to the Environmental Committee.”
Moving forward, the students will continue the dialogue with Senator Kennedy and other lawmakers to educate people about marine debris.
“It starts with each individual,” says Isabelle, a West Hartford, Conn. native, majoring in psychology with a minor in environmental studies.