By Chuck Walker
MOBILE, Ala. – As part of gaining new citizen scientists, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), along with the Mobile District took part in a SandSnap presentation at the Thomas B. Norton Library in Gulf Shores, Alabama, to encourage kids to take part in the SandSnap project when they go to the beach.
SandSnap is a nationwide initiative by ERDC, the U.S. Geological Service, Marda Science and James Madison University to gather information on beaches and amass a nationwide beach grain-size database.
The bags that were handed out to the kids had several fun activities they could do on the beach, as well as how to do a SandSnap to help with the nationwide database.
“We’re doing a lot of STEM outreach at libraries in coastal areas, which is why we came to Gulf Shores,” Brian McFall, Research Engineer with ERDC said. “The bags we are handing out include a lot of fun activities, like how to build sandcastles, along with how to conduct a SandSnap. We are really excited that we had over 100 children here. We hope to collect a lot of samples as well as helping to educate the next generation.”
Part of the SandSnap project is to collect sand samples from varying geographic locations throughout the United States. ERDC has already gathered SandSnaps from Sag Harbor, New York and have also gathered SandSnap samples from a variety of beaches in California
So with the East Coast and West Coast already represented, Gulf Shores provided an opportunity to include the Gulf Coast beaches to the samples.
“This project requires a strong outreach component,” McFall said. “We want to get the kids involved and help educate and inspire the next generation. This is the first time we’ve promoted SandSnap at library and we hope to gain a lot of citizen scientists to help us with our project.”
With Gulf Shores being basically in the Mobile District’s backyard, the District provided a helping hand to ERDC to help promote and encourage involvement in the SandSnap project.
Maj. Gary Cutler, Mobile District Deputy Commander, said events like the one at Gulf Shores are important for the Mobile District and the Corps of Engineers.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mission is to ensure that our waterways and coastline are cared for,” Cutler said. “Events like this, where we encourage citizen scientists to collect information for a vitally important project are critical in helping preserve our coastline and to help preserve our beaches for future generations.”
McFall said he thought the SandSnap event, which also included a performance by juggler and unicyclist extraordinaire Wink Darenberg, was a big success.
“We were able to commission over 100 new citizen scientists through this event,” McFall said. “We were able to publicize this project quite well and this should help SandSnap gather lots of samples. I think everyone is excited to get involved and I think they are ready to become citizen scientists.”