University prof leads beach-based service project

An SVSU geography professor’s passion for fresh water has fostered university-wide participation in the Adopt-a-Beach program.

Martin Arford, associate professor of geography, learned others on campus shared his interest and decided to get involved in the beach cleanup program.

“I was excited to find there were other professors and students with interest in fresh water, too,” Arford said. With the shared fascination, Arford was ready to begin his research.

“We could begin a collaborative approach to research – such as what is being done on the Kawkawlin River,” Arford said.

Adopt-a-Beach, run by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, incorporates volunteers who visit Great Lakes beaches during the spring and summer to observe beach conditions. They also pick up litter along the beaches, which is accounted for in a database.

The geography department at SVSU was given a grant from the Great Lakes Innovative Stewardship through Education Network (GLISTEN) to fund student research and student service-learning, Arford said. The biology and chemistry departments performed water quality sampling on the Kawkawlin River, with aid from the grant. The geography department took on volunteers for service-learning by means of the Adopt-a-Beach program.

“We have hosted five Adopt-a-Beach events since last July,” Arford said. Two took place at Pinconning Beach and three were at Bay City State Park. Each event has averaged 18 people, including students and faculty from local science departments.

The group reported the amount of litter collected from the beaches and weighed it. The students and staff also tested for e. coli and monitored for algae and muck.

Arford said he allows opportunities for all students, not just science majors, to get involved through service learning.

“One of the goals of our Water Resources group is service learning, so our Adopt-a-Beach visits allow us to provide volunteer opportunities in the local community,” Arford said.

He hopes the students “develop a stronger relationship to their local community and the local environment.”

“Taking students for Adopt-a-Beach visits allows them to see coastal processes in action, see human impacts on the environment and learn from their experience,” he said.

Kaitlyn Karamon, biology major, said that participating in the Adopt-a-Beach program is “great fun.”

“It is important to me because I like to take care of the environment and cleaning up the local beaches is a great place to start,” Karamon said. “You become more aware of the harmful things that can destroy a beach and have an effect on the animals in the surrounding areas.”

“If no action about environmental changes is made, people might not be able to swim in our beaches,” said Samantha Domagala, social work sophomore.

Next year in April, the geography apartment will offer monthly Adopt-a-Beach visits. For each beach visit, Arford will give a brief lecture discussing history of local beaches and its changes over time.

Arford said they will be seeking volunteers for the visits. Volunteers are needed for mapping research data by using Geographical Information Systems (computer mapping and analysis), and help with getting K-12 students engaged in working on fresh water issues.

Volunteers are also needed for community service projects at local parks to plant vegetation and restore its habitat.

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