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Earth Day beach cleanup unites local, base communities

Senior Airman Stephanie Eck, 736th Security Forces Squadron, looks for trash to pick up along Scout Beach during an Earth Day beach cleanup April 18, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The event was held in commemoration of Earth Day, an annual day where events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katrina M. Brisbin/Released)

Senior Airman Stephanie Eck, 736th Security Forces Squadron, looks for trash to pick up along Scout Beach during an Earth Day beach cleanup April 18, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The event was held in commemoration of Earth Day, an annual day where events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katrina M. Brisbin/Released)

Earth Day beach cleanup participants observe as Staples, a Ko’ko bird, responds to his handler April 18, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. This year, Outdoor Recreation joined together with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Guam Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Guam to host the annual event, which serves as an outlet to clean the beach and encourage attendees to be better stewards of the environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katrina M. Brisbin/Released)

Earth Day beach cleanup participants observe as Staples, a Ko’ko bird, responds to his handler April 18, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. This year, Outdoor Recreation joined together with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Guam Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Guam to host the annual event, which serves as an outlet to clean the beach and encourage attendees to be better stewards of the environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katrina M. Brisbin/Released)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Approximately 100 volunteers gathered April 18 at Tarague Beach on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to participate in a beach cleanup.

The event was held in commemoration of Earth Day, an annual day where events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection.

"Earth Day and the Earth Day events that occur all month long are important for reminding people about how precious our natural resources can be," said Marylou Staman, Earth Day event presenter and University of Guam Sea Turtle Monitoring, Protection and Educational Outreach on Guam project manager. "Beach cleanup events bring communities together and raise awareness about growing problems such as ocean pollution, as well as teach people how they can become environmental stewards in their everyday life."

This year, Outdoor Recreation joined together with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Guam Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Guam to host the event.

One goal of the Earth Day cleanup is to clear large debris from the beaches at the peak of the sea turtle nesting season, which typically runs from February through June, making it safer and easier for the turtles to nest.

According to scientific research, the majority of trash on Guam beaches washes in from the ocean. Guam's northeast coastline gets exposed to a lot of trash that gets carried across the Pacific in currents, often forming giant oceanic garbage patches.

"Doing daily sea turtle surveys on the beach, I get to see first-hand how easily a little bit of trash can pile up over time," said Staman. "Plastic bags are one of the most common items we find on the beach and can kill many different types of animals that mistakenly ingest them for food."

Along with collecting trash, volunteers tracked the brands, types and amount of the waste they collected. This data will be sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regions 9 for their study on sources of rubbish in oceans. By providing this information to the companies, environmental activists are hoping the companies will make large-scale changes on their end.

"This year, the trash collected was able to fill two truckloads," said Shermaine Garcia, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Flight biological science technician. "There were also very large items, such as a mini refrigerator, two large buoys, one smaller round buoy, fishing nets, and Styrofoam pieces."

Another goal of the Earth Day cleanup was to provide an outlet to educate all who attend on ways they can be better stewards of the environment. Various organizations set up displays and provided hands on demonstrations.

"We enjoy making these types of events as family-friendly as possible, so watching the children getting excited about petting the Ko'ko bird and holding the brown tree snake was a real treat," said Staman.

For 45 years, Earth Day has been bringing communities and organizations together to advocate for a healthier environment and a sustainable life. This year's theme of "It's Our Turn to Lead" seeks to encourage everyone to get involved and lead by example.

"People can be involved year-round by being mindful of how their actions can affect the environment," said Garcia. "For example, avoid littering, reduce the use of plastic bags, increase recycling efforts and keep a safe distance from known threatened and endangered species."