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PSU students organize cleanup of local waterways


November 19, 2020
PLYMOUTH — Four students attending Plymouth State University have immersed themselves in an action-based project allotted by the required Tackling A Wicked Problem course in their first year.

Acacia Fournier, Kyah Mekus, Matthew Mulkerrin and Jasmin Reed partook in their own style of this action-based project the weeks of Nov. 8 and 15. They initiated in a clean-up, whether on campus or remotely from their hometowns, with the goal of filling up at least a trash bag's worth of litter strewn about and close to waterways with the hope of decreasing the risk of water contamination in their approximate community. While collecting this litter (safely, with gloves), they kept track of their findings with the app, Marine Debris Tracker, on their mobile devices. While storing and submitting their data found through this app, they attributed their collection to a nation-wide open source of data.

When reflecting on the experience, one of the members mentioned, "I was surprised to see how much waste is thrown carelessly along these water bodies, contaminating these water sources that the communities rely on for clean, quality water."

They had made an intention of inspiring local citizens of their community to become more aware of litter and its detrimental effects on the surrounding community, accruing harmful bacteria and chemicals in drinking water while also negatively effecting local marine and land ecosystems. Through depleting vital oxygen for aquatic life in water while the litter decays, to disintegrating small pieces of plastic, glass, and aluminum- indigenous animals in the area can possibly digest and suffocate due to the large amounts of litter surrounding their local areas. These effects as well as the harmful risks of drinking water becoming toxically contaminated acutely ignited the group's purpose of this project.

With the focus on water as a human right, resource and hazard, the Tackling a Wicked Problem course taught by Professor Rachelle Lyons of Plymouth State University has opened the conversation on the international problem of water scarcity and quality vulnerability caused by human action and decision. Illuminating the problem through research and projects throughout the class's course, the students have all participated in an action-outreach-based project as the final in the recent weeks.

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