Beach Bound? UF/IFAS Works With Communities to Ensure Clean Shorelines

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s 8 a.m. on a Saturday, and Dennis Mudge is already picking up trash at the beach, helping a community effort to keep Volusia County shorelines pristine.

Mudge, director of UF/IFAS Extension Volusia County, works with a legion of local volunteers who pick up garbage every three months.

As we celebrate July 1-7 as National Clean Beaches Week, thousands, if not millions of people will flock to Florida’s shorelines. If visitors leave garbage, local residents will rid the man-made debris from the shorelines, and some will get help from UF/IFAS Extension agents.

Mudge works with members of the Keep Volusia County Beautiful Board of Directors and community volunteers, who have been picking up beach trash for about 10 years. Their efforts are well worth the early wake-up alarm, Mudge said.

In the past year, 37 volunteers have logged 50 hours, and collected and properly disposed of 96 pounds of debris, he said.

“At first I thought, ‘wow, I am going to volunteer my time like this,’” Mudge said. “But then I thought, ‘look what we ask our volunteers to do,’ and besides, this is so needed on Florida beaches. So guess what, turned out I love it.”

Count Mudge among the many UF/IFAS Extension faculty who help community efforts to collect garbage from Florida beaches. Here are some other examples:

Sarasota County: Sarasota youth and others in the community learn about marine debris and help clean the 37 miles of coastline in Sarasota County, said Armando Ubeda, a UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant agent in Sarasota County.

“This is an ongoing program,” Ubeda said. “Since it was launched in September 2016, we have had 1,250 Sarasota youth and 100 adults from local schools and organizations such as Boy and Girl Scouts, and 4-H clubs participate in this program.”

The program has been so successful and popular that Ubeda and others opened the program to other groups in the community. For example, volunteers from the Sarasota Young Professional Group and Hilton Hotels and Resorts are helping.

Hernando County: Brittany Scharf, a UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant agent, works with Hernando County storm water managers, the Hernando County environmentally sensitive lands specialist and the Ocean Conservancy to help lead an annual coastal cleanup.

In October 2017, volunteers helped enhance 11 miles of Hernando County’s coastal parks, roadways, inshore waterways and salt marshes by collecting trash from the area, Scharf said. During that cleanup, 36 volunteers spent a total of 137 hours collecting 2,400 pieces of trash during the cleanup, Scharf said. Plastics made up 40 percent of the items collected. They filled and disposed of 40 bags of trash.

And they don’t stick to the sand.

“We have groups that walk around collecting trash along the marshes and coastal roadways,” Scharf said. “We have others who get into a boat and clean the trash out of the waterways.”

Flagler County: To help clean up Flagler County beaches, Maia McGuire focuses on galvanizing people to remove and quantify the small plastics that wash ashore. She usually does this through school groups, although the microplastic program includes adults.

“This activity really makes people realize how abundant microplastics are on our beaches, and makes them think about the types of plastics that they use and throw away,” said McGuire, UF/IFAS Extension Sea Grant agent for Flagler County.

Okaloosa and Walton counties: Several organizations in Okaloosa and Walton counties organize beach cleanups for Earth Day and International Coastal Cleanup Day every September, said Laura Tiu, the UF/IFAS Extension Sea Grant agent for the two counties. In fact, Tiu is recruiting people to clean up another beach in July.

A few years ago, Tiu worked with the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance to help clean up beaches.

“We battled yellow flies to pick up and document the trash we picked up,” Tiu said. “We ended up with a pile of about 15 to 20 bags in one hour of work.”

Santa Rosa and Escambia counties: UF/IFAS Sea Grant Extension agents in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties support clean beaches through many activities. Among other examples, they coordinate meetings and help identify and receive funding for projects. Chris Verlinde, a UF/IFAS Extension Sea Grant agent, works with Santa Rosa county’s public works and parks and recreation departments to coordinate monofilament recycling programs on beaches and throughout the county.

She and Rick O’Connor, a UF/IFAS Extension Sea Grant agent, help gain grant funding to expand Ocean Hour’s mission to remove marine debris from area beaches.

O’Connor also helps coordinate a quarterly meeting of those interested in combating marine debris. In addition, he coordinates locations for “Cig,” a sea turtle made of cigarette butts collected on the beach.

Verlinde also works with Calvin Lirette, a local bait and tackle shop manager.

“Calvin knows the importance of keeping our beaches clean and that upper parts of the watershed contribute to the trash that is found downstream,” Verlinde said. “He organizes and supports coastal clean-ups at area boat ramps. The agent supports these efforts by supplying equipment.”


By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303,

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.











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Posted: June 25, 2018

Category: UF/IFAS
Tags: Beaches, Clean Beaches, Environment, Florida Sea Grant, Microplastics, News, Volunteers

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