Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
colbartn.gif (4535 octets)

Launch of the Caribbean "Sandwatch" project

Project description

1. Project Objectives

The objectives of the Sandwatch project are as follows:

(a) To reduce the level of pollution in the Caribbean Sea.
(b) To train schoolchildren in the scientific observation of beaches through field measurements and data analysis.
(c) To assist schoolchildren, with the help of their local communities, to use the information collected to better manage the region’s beaches.

2. Project Time Frame

It is anticipated that the project time frame will cover three years. The first major activity will be a teacher training workshop where teachers from the participating territories will be given hands-on training in the methodology of the Sandwatch project. These teachers, on return to their territories, will train other teachers. Scientific organizations at the national level, as well as COSALC counterpart agencies, will be invited to participate in the project by providing students with advice and assistance where needed.

Then, over a 12 month period, students at the participating schools will carry out the field measurements and data analysis. During this period they will compile and analyse their data and identify the major problems at their beach sites. At the end of this 12 month period there will be a regional workshop where the students can present their findings. Following this, the students will work with their communities to implement a project to solve or better manage one or more of the beach management problems identified during the data collection period. The measurement protocol started in the first 12 months may be continued during this period to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation project. At the end of the project there will be a second regional workshop. Table 1 summarizes the project time frame.

Table 1. Project Time Frame

Time Line Activity
Month 1-3 Teacher training workshop
Month 4-5 At the national level, project coordinators identify scientific organizations and COSALC counterpart agencies, to provide advice and assistance where necessary.
Month 6-9 Launching of the project at the national level.
Month 10-22 Data collection, compilation, analysis, identification of beach problems, preparation for regional workshop.
Month 23-24 First regional workshop.
Month 25-34 Implementation of projects, further data collection for evaluation of project results. Preparation for project presentation at second regional workshop.
Month 35-36 Second regional workshop.

3. Project Activities

3.1 Teacher training workshop

At least one teacher from each of the participating countries will be invited to attend this four day workshop where hands-on training will be given in the methodology to be used in this project. Experience with example beach management projects will also be provided.

3.2 Identification of national scientific organizations

The coordinators will identify appropriate scientific organizations, experienced professionals and COSALC counterparts in their respective territories. These individuals/agencies will be asked to participate in the project and to act as student advisors.

3.3 Field activities

3.3.1 Select a beach for observation

Each school or group will select a beach for the project. The main criterion for beach selection is accessibility, students should plan to visit the beach and conduct the measurements documented in 3.3.3 to 3.3.11 at least once a month over a 6-9 month period.

3.3.2 Describe the beach

The first activity is to describe the beach, its location and characteristics and to take photographs of the beach. A simple checklist/data sheet will be prepared which will include, but not be limited to the following:

3.3.3. Measure the beach debris

A site (or several sites) will be set up for the measurement of beach debris, a permanent feature behind the beach such as a tree or building can be used to mark the site. The debris will then be measured within a 10 m wide strip starting at this point and continuing across the beach to the water line. The number of measurement sites per beach would depend on the size of the beach and the number of students involved. The natural and man-made debris found in this strip of beach will be collected and documented. A data sheet will be developed, a sample prototype based on categories developed by the Center for Marine Conservation is presented in Appendix I.

3.3.4 Measure the water quality

Using simple water quality kits, the students will measure water quality in the sea at selected locations along the beach.

3.3.5 Record human activities on the beach

The number of people using the beach and the type of activities they are engaged in will be recorded.

3.3.6 Measure and record physical changes in the beach

At intervals along the beach, the physical changes in the beach will be measured. This can be done by using a tape measure to record the distance from a fixed object behind the beach (such as a wall or tree) to the high water mark line. This would show the amount of erosion or accretion from month to month. Alternatively beach profiles/cross sections could be measured using the methodology developed by the COSALC project to determine the amount of erosion or accretion. (The COSALC counterpart agencies in the islands could assist with the training). These beach change measurement points could be adjacent to the debris measurement sites.

3.3.7 Collect sand samples and record characteristics

At the locations where beach width is measured, beach material will be recorded and samples of sand collected. With the use of a hand lens, students will determine the type of sand, the size and angularity of the sand grains. This will tell the students about the origin of the sand and how long it has been on the beach.

3.3.8 Measure and record wave characteristics

Simple observations of wave height, wave period and wave direction can be made from the beach. This would provide data on the processes causing the beach to change (erode or accrete) and on the movement of debris onto the beach or away from the beach.

3.3.9 Measure nearshore currents

Nearshore currents can be measured by placing some simple dye or a small floating object in the sea near where the waves break. The distance and direction the object moves over a period of one minute will be measured. This will give information on the nearshore current, how sand moves along the beach, and on the movement of marine debris along the beach.

3.3.10 Observe turtle nesting activity

If the beach is a turtle nesting beach, the position of any nests or crawls will be recorded. If a nest is observed then future visits can be timed to coincide with the hatching.

3.3.11 Record the animals and plants

Animals and plants observed on the beach will be recorded, e.g. numbers of crabs, sea urchins, sand dollars, jellyfish, birds, algae, seagrass etc. Record any obvious changes in the vegetation behind the beach e.g. a recently fallen tree.

3.4 Classroom activities

After collecting the data for a period of 6-9 months, the data can be compiled and analysed. Graphs, histograms, pie charts, statistics can be prepared to show changes at the particular beach e.g.

Using this information, the major problems at the particular beach will be identified.

3.5 First regional workshop

During this meeting each country will present the results of the first year’s data collection and discuss their proposed follow-up activities.

3.6 Implementation of beach management projects

During the next 12 month period, the groups will select one particular problem at their beaches where they think that, together with their communities, they can make a difference. Simple projects will be initiated and implemented, with the help of local communities, some examples are given below:

Awareness activities:

  • giving presentations to the school and community;
  • making a video;
  • developing an exhibit about the beach for public display.
Revegetation projects:
  • implementing a tree planting or beautification project;
  • planting an eroded dune area with grasses.
Beach clean-up projects:
  • carrying out a beach clean-up activity;
  • providing garbage collection cans;
  • making notices about littering.
Beach user projects:
  • demarcating a buoyed swimming area where persons could bathe without being worried about boats and jet-skis etc.

3.7 Project evaluation

Once the project has been implemented, further measurements can be made to evaluate the success of the project.

3.8 Second regional workshop

During this meeting the schools will present the results of their beach management activities.

4. Benefits and Rationale

The project will benefit the participating students by training them in basic scientific observations and measurement, providing data which can then be analysed using mathematical, computing and language skills. The project will also provide training in scientific method and the making of logical deductions. Furthermore this training will be placed in the context of environmental management and sustainable development as the students use the information in the implementation of projects to help solve specific environmental problems. As the students involve their parents and communities in their projects, environmental awareness will be enhanced through action orientated activities.

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