Press Release: Volunteers Collect Nearly 300 Pounds of Marine Debris Despite Freezing Temperatures

Volunteers walk along Second Beach to collect marine debris and litter. (Photo credit: Hugh Fanning)

MIDDLETOWN — On Saturday, February 9, 2019, Clean Ocean Access (COA) hosted a cleanup at Sachuest Beach, locally known as Second Beach, overlooking the beautiful Sachuest Bay. The south facing beach is a family friendly go-to with good surf and great sand.

58 volunteers braved the freezing temperatures and gusts of wind to collect a whopping 290 pounds of marine debris from the Sachuest Beach coastline. Volunteers, including several students from Salve Regina University and residents from across Aquidneck Island, spent the afternoon cleaning up the locally loved beach and popular tourist location, while exercising their public right to access the shoreline.

Located along the famous Cliff Walk, surrounded by sweeping views of the ocean, Salve Regina University offers students a coastal experience unlike any other. Whether moved by a social media post or motivated by their love of the ocean, many students felt compelled to do their part and participate in the cleanup at Second Beach this past weekend.

“A big part of being at Salve is the ocean, especially as we’re right on the Cliff Walk. If the ocean is ruined others will not have the same opportunity to enjoy it as we do now,” reflects Faith Lambert, a student at Salve Regina.

Volunteers collected over 442 individual items of marine and litter across two miles of shoreline, including 82 plastic and glass bottles, 54 caps and lids, 52 food wrappers and containers.

Nathaniel Crocker (left) and PJ McNamara, students from Salve Regina University. (photo credit: Hugh Fanning)

“Pollution is a growing concern, especially here in Rhode Island. We just came out to do our part because we know how important it is; it starts with the little things and works its way back up. Cleaning up the beach is the least we can do,” said PJ McNamara, a biology major at Salve Regina University.

COA’s beach cleanups are made possible by the generous sponsorship of People’s Credit Union and their support of a clean local economy. Their sponsorship helps fund the beach cleanup program and by supplying volunteers with cleanup kits that include grabbers, gloves, reusable bags, scales and clipboards.

The 2019 beach cleanup schedule is available online: COA also actively seeks volunteers to join the flexible cleanup program. If you are interested in adopting a section of Sachuest Point to clean on a flexible monthly basis sign up online: or email   

Meet Our Bookkeeper: Sarah Fernandez

Growing up on the Long Island peninsula, Sarah Fernandez remembers visiting the beach and local maritime museum, where she learned about the fascinating underwater world that has captivated her ever since. These early memories of the ocean peaked her interest in marine biology, though she later discovered her innate knack for numbers.

Sarah is currently a senior at Salve Regina University, working towards her bachelor’s in finance with a concentration in cybersecurity, and is concurrently pursuing her master’s in business administration. In fall 2018, she joined COA as an accounting intern during which time she managed donations and reconciled purchases. She gained invaluable skills using our customer relationship management system, accounts receivables, accounts payable, and was exposed to our balance sheets, cash summary, and financial income statements.

Though her day-to-day work involves excel documents and balance sheets, she has been a steadfast ocean-lover and avid sailor for the past ten years. Before coming to COA, Sarah worked as a sailing instructor at the Waterfront Center in Oyster Bay, New York, where she was able to pass on her love for the ocean and sailing to the next generation of students.

Sarah’s great work ethic and mastery of finance and accounting, as well as her passion for ocean conservation has resulted in a part-time position with COA in 2019. As our bookkeeper Sarah makes sure our nonprofit wheels keep turning, helping to run our financial accounting, donor management and annual appeals accounting. Upon graduating with her MBA in 2020, Sarah plans to take her CPA exam and hopes to enter the forensic accounting field in New England or New York.

Press Release: Volunteers brave the cold to collect over 200 pounds of marine debris at Gull Cove

PORTSMOUTH — On Saturday, February 4, Clean Ocean Access (COA) organized a beach cleanup at Gull Cove Fishing Area in Portsmouth, where dozens of volunteers braved the freezing temperatures to clean the coastline of the popular boating and fishing area.

Forty-seven volunteers gathered and collected 221 pounds of debris around the perimeters of Gull Cove shoreline, where taller brush has been known to trap a surplus of various items of debris. Cigarette butts frequently become entangled in the brush. Volunteers collected 114 cigarettes and cigarette filters from the Gull Cove shoreline, accounting for a significant portion of the individual items found at the cleanup.

Over the years, Gull Cove has been misused as a dumping site, and as a result volunteers this weekend stumble upon larger marine debris items, such as tires, a car bumper, and a synthetic Christmas tree. The volunteers worked to collect marine debris and litter along the shoreline at Gull Cove, including large debris such as a fishing rod, two car tires, a car bumper and bike tire, as well as 86 glass bottles, 62 plastic bottles,  

Among the volunteers from the weekend cleanup there were students from Salve Regina University, Navy Supply Corps School and Middletown High School. “I wanted to promote a good relationship between the navy and the island community,” said Nick, a student with the Navy Supply Corps School, whose students frequently volunteer at COA cleanups. “We want to help make the community better; after all, we provide defense for the nation and the country means a lot to us, so we want to make sure it’s in pristine condition.”

This weekend’s cleanup gathered both veteran and new volunteers who helped clean up the local coastal environment for the betterment and enjoyment of all residents. “I’m a new Newport resident and I came out here to meet with people that also want to help clean the environment,” said Jinal Patel who recently moved to Aquidneck Island.

COA actively recruits volunteers for the flexible cleanup program, which allows residents to get involved and make a difference in the community on their own time. If you are interested in adopting a section of Sachuest Point for monthly flexible cleanups email: For more information and upcoming volunteer opportunities visit:

Press Release: Clean Ocean Access Releases Comprehensive Intern Report

MIDDLETOWN – Clean Ocean Access (COA) recently released a comprehensive report detailing the growth and success of the organization’s internship program, including profiles of interns both past and present. Since the launch of the internship program in 2015, COA has mentored twenty-nine high school, undergraduate and graduate students, who have engaged in professional internships in environmental science, education and research, as well as communications, marketing and finance.

This report demonstrates the diversity of interests and interdisciplinary backgrounds of students who intern with COA, as well as the different universities that the organization works with throughout the year, including both in-state and out-of-state institutions. Students use the invaluable experiences gained during their internships at COA to build professional networks and advance their future careers.

“I was motivated to intern with COA because I heard about all the work the organization does on Aquidneck Island,” said Eileen Dillon, communications and marketing intern during fall 2018. “It was a really awesome opportunity to be part of something where I could see myself making a difference in the community.”

Students who have pursued internships with COA have moved on to work as scientists, instructors and science experts in diverse fields across the private, nonprofit, federal and higher education sectors. Several internships have also resulted in full-time employment with the organization, including marine debris specialist, Max Kraimer, who completed three consecutive internships with COA and program manager, Eva Touhey, who was the organization’s first intern in 2015.

COA looks forward to growing and expanding its internship program, offering meaningful mentorship and experiential learning opportunities to students interested in engaging in environmental nonprofit work. During the spring 2019 semester alone, COA expects to bring on 10 interns to assist in environmental science, communications, environmental education, and policy research work.

“I strive to go the extra mile for my interns by enabling them to take on their own projects and encouraging students to play to their strengths,” said executive director, Dave McLaughlin. “The results of this have been extraordinary.”

Students have the opportunity to pursue summer, fall and spring internships during which they work alongside COA’s dedicated staff, board, volunteers and citizen scientists to advance the organization’s mission to eliminate marine debris, improve coastal water quality, and protect and preserve shoreline access on Aquidneck Island.

COA currently has environmental education and communications and marketing internship opportunities available for the spring 2019 semester. Interested candidates can find out more and apply by visiting COA’s employment and internships opportunity page.

Meet Our Communications & Development Manager: Gloria Kostadinova

As a storyteller and science communicator it is my obligation to give our ocean a voice.

For Gloria Kostadinova, storytelling is second nature. As a passionate environmental advocate, she is keen on communicating science stories that captivate, inform and inspire audiences. Gloria comes to Clean Ocean Access with five years of strategic communications and public relations experience. She’s worked in communications departments across multiple sectors including nonprofit, federal, private, and higher education.

Most recently. Gloria worked as a graduate communications fellow for the University of Rhode Island’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences, where she honed her science communications skills under the mentorship of skilled professionals at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting.

Previously, Gloria worked in Washington, DC at two strategic communications firms and served as a communications intern at the White House Council on Environmental Quality during the Obama Administration.

A proud Rhode Islander, Gloria knew she wanted to use her experience and expertise to give back to her community and advance environmental stewardship in the Ocean State.  As the communications and development manager at Clean Ocean Access she hopes to captivate audiences through stories of the seas, inform readers about the many challenges of ocean pollution, and inspire communities to act and stand up for a healthy ocean for generations to come.

Gloria also sits on the board of directors of ecoRI News, a local environmental news group dedicated to reporting on environmental and social justice issues in southern New England. She holds a master’s in environmental science and management from the University of Rhode Island and a bachelor’s in English from Boston College.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Bulgaria and moved to the United States when I was three years old. I’ve lived in many places including Ohio, New York, Indiana, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Washington, DC, and Spain. The Ocean State is where I call home.

What is your first memory of the ocean?

When I was in elementary school I lived on Long Island. My family and I used to picnic on Long Beach. It was my favorite place to visit and walk along the seemingly endless coastline. My memories of the ocean are tied with memories of being surrounded by family and friends.

What is your favorite ocean activity?

I really enjoy walking on the beach. I love the serenity of listening to the waves crashing, the feeling of sand beneath my feet, the ebb and flow of the tides. Walking along the shoreline gives me a time to think, a time to reflect and a time when I can be just one of the billions of grains of sand on the beach.

What motivates you to work in ocean conservation?

The ocean covers about 71% of the earth’s surface – it sustains life on earth, provides us with food, drives global currents and influences our climate. The ocean is a mysterious and magnificent place yet, like many natural resources, it cannot protest or speak to its needs and grievances. As a storyteller and science communicator it is my obligation to give our ocean a voice.