Research is a funny little business.
It starts so small. A simple question, like "How did this widget end up on the beach?" Just a fragile, ephemeral thought. The kind of thing that can easily go *poof* back out of existence if not nurtured.
But if you're persistent -- and lucky -- you just may wend your way to an answer. Or, more excitingly, more questions. More avenues of thought. And if you're really lucky, those new questions will lead you to other people who have asked the same kinds of questions, and have knowledge to share. People making a difference. People who can help you learn how to make a difference.
From time to time the Diaries will take a moment to give a shout to a person or organization that's making a real difference. Today I want to introduce you to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association's Marine Debris Program.
mission as "to understand and predict changes in Earth's environment and conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet our Nation's economic, social, and environmental needs." Its Marine Debris program came into effect in December, 2006. The program coordinates and leads a number of national projects including dealing with abandoned vessels, derelict traps & pots, coastal cleanups, as well as just gleaning basic information. (It's remarkable -- and scary -- how little science yet knows about just how much trash is out there, how fast it's collecting, and what its long-term effects are.)
For a Flotsam Diarist like me, the program's Web site provides a wealth of information and resources for learning just what marine debris is, including handouts, posters, brochures, classroom activity books, etc. They also maintain a blog and publish a weekly report with news & links. Beyond that, their outreach program is remarkable for the encouragement it offers, and the material that it will send to a regular guy with a passion to get the word out: