The Persistence of Plastic

Benjamin Kageyama of Russian River Watershed Association

Though plastic is durable, cheap, and common in everyday items, it comes at a large environmental cost.

Plastic, a man-made petrochemical product, can take thousands of years to decompose if at all. Meanwhile, we just keep making more of it. Over time, plastics break down into smaller and smaller particles, to the point where they are virtually invisible. These tiny plastic particles are commonly referred to as “microplastics.” Other sources of microplastics are the tiny plastic fibers or “microfibers” in clothing (think of your favorite fleece jacket or yoga pants), or the microplastic beads made for some cosmetics, body wash products or even toothpaste. When washed down the drain, these plastic microfibers and microbeads are tiny enough to pass right through the wastewater treatment plants and into the river, or even if they are removed, may re-enter the environment through the sewage sludge applied to fields as fertilizer. Besides all the plastic litter that you can see, invisible microplastics are everywhere. They are now found in our soils, throughout the oceans, in the Arctic and Antarctic ice, in our once pristine mountain lakes, and are light enough to be carried by the wind high into the atmosphere to all corners of the Earth.

If that weren’t distressing enough, plastics have recently been found inside our bodies. They are in the food we eat (particularly in seafoods), the water we drink (highest levels in bottled water), and even the air we breathe (highest levels downwind from big cities). A study recently published in Environmental Science & Technology estimates that the average American consumes 74,000 to 121,000 particles of microplastic per year. Plastics are also known to act like sponges that concentrate chemicals and toxins from the environment and into our bodies. While the effects are still unknown, much more research is needed to understand the impacts of microplastics on human health.  We do know that plastic can be devastating to the countless birds, fish, and animals that ingest it or are trapped by it. Suffice it to say that plastic in all sizes and forms are rapidly accumulating and damaging the oceans and marine life, our environment, and ultimately ourselves.

So, What can we as individuals do about such an overwhelming and complex problem?

Here are ten immediate actions you can take:

1) Reduce the use of single-use plastic products (cups, packages, plastic bags, plastic utensils and straws, etc.) Bring your own re-useable grocery and produce bags to the store. Bring your own silverware to the office, or travel mug to the coffee shop.

2) Stop buying bottled water. Use a re-useable water bottle.

3) Eat whole foods. Processed and ready-to-eat foods require more food packaging. Moreover, microplastic and chemicals in food packages can leach into the food itself.

4) Buy foods in bulk. This can reduce the amount of food packaging needed.

5) Make things last and buy used items. This reduces the need for new plastic packaging and saves money too.

6) Recycle properly. Be sure recyclables are clean and properly sorted.

7) Avoid all personal care products with microbeads. These products may include “polyethylene,” “polystyrene” or “polypropylene” in the list of ingredients. (The good news is many countries, including the US, have begun banning their sales.)

8) Buy natural clothing materials instead of synthetics and microfiber.

9) Use devices in the washing machine to trap microfibers. Search your internet browser for ‘washing machine lint filter’ or ‘microfiber catching laundry bag’ for more information.)

10) Pick up litter and trash. Anything washed into a storm drain will end up in the creek and eventually in the ocean. Participate in beach and river cleanups sponsored by your local organizations and agencies. Learn more about the streets to creek connection by visiting


Most importantly, stay informed on the issue of plastic pollution and help to make others aware of the problem. As consumers, think about how we support the products, manufacturers and industries that perpetuate and profit from our daily habits (which are all too often governed by convenience) – the things we eat, the things we do, and the things we buy. Support bans on single-use plastic and support organizations that address plastic pollution.  Plastic persists in our environment and is a huge global challenge that will require the actions of individuals, organizations, industries, and governments around the world working together.

This article was authored by Benjamin Kageyama, of the City of Healdsburg, Public Works Department on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.


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Why Do Teachers Stop Hatching Fish?

This is a question we have been pondering for the past several years. In the Bay Area, we experienced steady growth (increase in the number of teachers participating) for many years. For the past several years though, we have trained about 100 new teachers each year yet our overall numbers have remained steady.

For the past two years we have surveyed teachers who have opted out in hopes of learning why they no longer hatch fish. If we can find a cause (or problem), we can attempt to fix it.

The results of our recent efforts can be found in the report below. Please read the report (it is not that long) and let us know what you think.

  • Do you agree with our analysis?
  • Are we missing something?
  • Do you feel additional pressure to perform your job that may preclude you from future participation?

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Getting Ready For Hatching Fish

Teachers who hatched fish last year:

  1. Check the posted list to ensure you are current and eligible to apply for eggs, Save this link as it will soon change to a list of teachers who have applied for eggs this year and have been approved.
  2. Complete an application for eggs and submit it to (you may want to send a copy to your sponsor as well)
  3. If you are hatching steelhead in Sonoma/Mendocino, check the list of available egg pick up dates
  4. Bookmark the above pages so you can easily find them later
  5. You are welcome and encouraged to attend a teacher training workshop as a refresher. This is not required but will help you in your teaching and we waive the fee for you
  6. Explore the website and begin thinking of great ways to extend your program this year
  7. Watch for updates on curriculum, grants and new ideas

New teachers to the program

Teachers new to this program need to start by enrolling in a training workshops. There will be three workshops this year and you should enroll based on the location of your school. There is limited space and many workshops fill up quickly.

Workshop registration

Alameda, Contra Costa, Solono Counties

Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Napa Counties

Sonoma and Mendocino Counties

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Do You Have A Project In Mind And Need A Bit Of Cash To Help Make It Happen?

Deadline Extended!

The Northern California Council Federation of Fly Fishers International (NCCFFI) is offering a series of mini-grants to teachers participating in the Classroom Aquarium Education Program (CAEP) in the San Francisco Bay Area. Funds received from these grants will be used to enhance the classroom experience of hatching trout in the classroom.

Image result for thinking about money


Applicants must:

  • Be certified and in good standing with the CDFW Region 3 CAEP program (eligible to receive eggs)
  • Have participated in the program in 2018
  • Have submitted a complete 772 application to hatch fish in 2019
  • Teach in San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Marin, Santa Cruz or Solano Counties


Funds may be used for classroom materials that enhance students understanding of fish, watersheds, and/or how human actions affect fish, and be directly tied to your class study of trout. These funds are for purchasing materials only in any curriculum area including science, art, language arts or other subject areas. NCCFFI will not fund guest speakers or transportation.

Ideal projects:

  • Are repeatable (meaning you can use the materials more than one year)
  • Involve others (other schools, classes, or the community at large)
  • Use technology to reach a larger audience (videos, live casts, slide shows)
  • Match funds from the community (but not from the teacher)
  • Involve direct student action and involvement

All decisions by IFF are final.

Amount you may request

NCCFFF has about $1000 to distribute. The maximum award will be $250. Smaller requests are encouraged, as this will allow more classes to receive grants.

To apply

Complete the attached from and submit it to by 2/21/19.

Grants will be reimbursable based on actual receipts. If you receive an award letter, you may purchase items up to the dollar amount stated, submit the receipts and you will receive reimbursement.

IFF Classroom Aquarium Education Program Grant Application:

Please provide the information below in a separate document. Maximum 2 pages although supplemental info (photos, related projects) may be added to that.

  1. Teacher name
  2. School
  3. Sponsor
  4. Grade level taught
  5. Number of students who will benefit
  6. Provide a brief overview of your project
  7. List materials needs with an estimate of cost
  8. What are the desired outcomes of the project?
  9. Will other classes or schools participate in or benefit from this project? Please describe.
  10. List any outside funding or volunteer time (not including your coach or sponsor) that will be part of this project.
  11. What is the life-span of the materials you are purchasing? (is this a one-time project or will it continue into future years?
  12. Any additional information you would like to add? Feel free to attach photos or other supplemental materials you feel will be helpful.


Submit application no later than 2/21/19 to

2018 Grant Recipients

Tegan McGuinness and Emily GallagherNeil Cummins ElementaryMarin Environmental Literacy and Learning Collaborative
Alison WilkeyRio Vista Elementary SchoolTrout sculpture
Chandra SherrOhlone ElementaryFish t shirts
Linda HambrickSouth San Francisco High SchoolMarin Biology Tank
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Do You Study Streams And Macroinvertabrates With Your Students?

We have a limited supply of “Pond and Stream Safari” curriculum packet available to enhance your class experience of hatching fish. We are willing to offer these to you at no-cost – all we ask is that:

  1. You are hatching fish in your classroom this school year
  2. You plan on taking your class to a lake, pond,  or steam to explore and study


POND AND STREAM SAFARI, A Guide to the Ecology of Aquatic Invertebrates. Edelstein.  Perfect field guide for use with students ages 8-13. Includes project manual, reference guide, species identification cards, worksheets, and a checklist for recording data. Students can use this guide to locate and study crayfish, dragonfly nymphs, water bugs, whirligig beetles, diving beetles, mayfly nymphs, caddisfly larvae, and more


To request your copy, send an email  with the following information:

  • Your name
  • School name
  • Mailing address (include zip code)
  • A one paragraph description of how you hope to use the guide.

Here is more information on the guide 



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Being In Nature Improves The Quality Of Your Life

Image result for being outdoorsI think many of us believe this is true which is why, in part, we teach environmental concepts to our students. Here is a fun and fascinating podcast that demonstrates why our work is so important.



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Project E-Trout (Virtual Reality With Trout)

Linking research and education with virtual reality
Virtual reality (VR) provides exciting opportunities for environmental education and research.

We invite your participation in a new program to engage students, anglers, and citizen
scientists in fish ecology and climate change research using new VR methods. Participants will
learn about fish ecology first-hand by exploring streams in VR and will be members of a
research team lead by US Geological Survey (USGS) scientists. This program is free and designed
for students, anglers, and citizen scientists of all ages.
Here’s how it works:
1. USGS collects 360-degree video samples from trout streams in Shenandoah National
Park, Virginia (completed during summer 2018).
2. Participants access videos from a website and use standard computer monitors or VR
headsets (e.g., Google cardboard) to watch them.
3. Participants then record data on fish species abundance and behavior using Google
Forms (or email).
4. USGS then analyzes the combined data and reports key findings to participants.
The inaugural program runs February to May 2019 and supports flexible scheduling:
participants can watch as few or as many videos as they want at any time. The program begins
with an introductory webinar by USGS in February and concludes with a webinar reporting
results in May. Your ideas and participation are essential for the success of this new program!

For more information and to register contact:
Nathaniel (Than) Hitt, PhD
US Geological Survey, Leetown Science Center; 304-724-4463

If you do participate, be sure to inform Ethan.

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