Friday, May 21, 2010

Rise Above Plastics: Minimizing Disposables

Many Blue Water Task Force volunteers have expressed concerns over the amount of plastic disposables used and discarded while collecting and analyzing water samples. Single use plastics are used to maintain a sterile environment and to avoid contamination of water samples. As our chapter water testing programs have become more established, accrue more experience and resources, and form valuable partnerships with other laboratories, many have chosen to cut back on the number of plastic disposables by sterilizing glassware in an autoclave instead. Although glassware is initially more expensive than plastic supplies, it is well worth the investment if your chapter has an established testing program, enough funds and space to set-up an autoclave (or one you can borrow). Read more about reducing your water testing program's plastic footprint and making the transition to re-usable glassware below.

1) Autoclave

An autoclave is used to sterilize equipment and supplies by subjecting them to high pressure steam at 121 °C or more. Autoclaves are widely used in microbiology, tattooing, body piercing, medicine and dentistry. Autoclaves can range anywhere from the size of a large refrigerator to a big cooking pot.

There are two types of small autoclaves available (about the size of a microwave oven). Steam autoclaves work like a pressure cooker, they are inexpensive (approximately $500) but they can be a bit dangerous and time intensive to run. They shouldn’t by used by children because of the risk of getting burned by the steam, and someone needs to constantly monitor the autoclave for the 1-2 hours it takes to run to make sure the heat levels stay in the appropriate temperature range. The other option is a dry autoclave, which you are able to set up and leave unattended. When you need the glassware next it will be sterile and dry. These are more expensive; roughly $2,500 - $3,000 for a small model that can accommodate the glassware used by our labs. Dry autoclaves, however, are much safer to use and are therefore recommended for BWTF labs.

With a little bit of detective work, however, your chapter might be able to find a good dry autoclave that you can borrow without having to buy one yourselves. Contact any university, state or federal laboratories that might be in your area to see if they have any old models they could donate to your program. These labs often upgrade their equipment and are left with older models stockpiled. Sometimes high school science teachers have autoclaves packed away in their closets collecting dust and don't even know they are there. So check around with science teacher friends, environmental and microbiology labs, even tattoo parlors, you never know where you might find one. Local labs may also be willing to autoclave your glassware if you set up a regular schedule with them.

2) Glassware

You can purchase glass collection and mixing vessels, pipettes and test tubes (if using the multiple test-tube method) to replace their plastic disposable counterparts. There are autoclavable plastic vessels available that can be reused, but our labs have found that glassware stands up better over time.

Some products that we recommend are 125 ml graduated sample bottles, which can be used to both collect samples and mix with reagant and glass pipettes.

3) Accessories

You will need some tin foil and autoclave indicator tape to verify that your glass ware is sterile coming out of the autoclave. You should also store your sterile equipment by sealing the autoclave tape along tin foil wrapped glassware or plastic. This seal will keep fingers, dust, and other possible contaminants away from sterile products. Indicator tape varies with the type of autoclave you are using, some different options are available here.

You may also want to purchase an autoclave bin to hold your glass pipettes in the autoclave during sterilization.

Please contact Mara Dias at with any questions about autoclaves and glassware or to purchase any of the above items. Many of these items can be purchased by Surfrider for less than the prices posted on the internet.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Extended Beach Season in New Hampshire

Back to the beach

Written by Chloe Johnson
Thursday, 06 May 2010

NH Surfrider kicks off the summer season with a benefit party and beach cleanup.

For most people on the Seacoast, the beach season is just beginning. But for some surfers, it never ends.

That’s one reason the New Hampshire Surfrider Foundation extended water quality testing to the colder months shortly after becoming an official chapter of the national organization a few years ago. The state’s Department of Environmental Services only monitors coastal waters for swimming during the summer.

Preston Curtis, president of the local Surfrider chapter, has been surfing for several years. “I like it just as much in the winter as in the summer,” he said.
An Environmental Protection Agency grant helped cover training, equipment and lab fees for water testing. Volunteers sample eight popular surf spots in the fall and spring to make sure the water is safe.

Despite this achievement, a Surfrider volunteer’s work is never done. Like the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation in Portsmouth, the organization holds monthly beach cleanups with the community, and Curtis said the need is not going away. Without these stewards of the beach, he said, the sand would be covered in trash.

“People will always litter and people will always clean it up,” he said. But it’s never the same people. “We shouldn’t have to do it.”

Curtis blames ignorant and inconsiderate beachgoers for the trash, but he said he hopes to lead be example. “We know better,” he said.

Surfrider is a grassroots, non-profit, environmental organization dedicated to the protection and stewardship of area waterways in a global ocean context. It is not just for surfers, but for anyone who cares about the beach. There are about 150 diverse members in the state, Curtis said.

The summer season starts with a kickoff weekend that includes a benefit party at the Portsmouth Gas Light on Friday, May 7, a booth at the Portsmouth Sustainability Fair on Saturday, May 8, and a beach cleanup in Seabrook on Sunday, May 9.

The third annual fundraiser party begins with live music by Kings Highway, a local band with Dave Cropper from Cinnamon Rainbows. There will also be a DJ, surf videos, and a raffle of more than $1,000 worth of gear and gift cards. Prizes include donations of surfboards, wetsuits, massage packages, ski passes and more from sponsors.

The event will be held upstairs in the 21-plus nightclub space. Tickets are $10 and will be sold at the door.

Proceeds from this year’s event will go to support NH Surfrider, the Molly Rowlee Foundation for cancer research and the Linda Jo Fund, which raises money to support free surf lessons for underprivileged children.

The first beach cleanup in the NH Surfrider summer series saw a record 55 volunteers remove more than 560 pounds of trash from North Beach in Hampton. Curtis said the average amount collected during a typical cleanup is about 125 pounds.

Volunteers at the May cleanup or any summer beach cleanup in Seabrook can enter a free raffle to win a wetsuit from Zapstix, the surf shop where the events begin.

Helping at any of the summer cleanups in Hampton in June, July or August puts volunteers into a surfboard raffle drawn at the end of the event on Aug. 7. Next month’s beach cleanup is on Saturday, June 12 at 9 a.m. at “The Wall” across from Cinnamon Rainbows.

Curtis said the Seacoast surf scene is “pretty happening right now,” having gained many people over the past 10 years. “It’s really become popular,” he said.

Surfrider recently created a site to chronologically list events and better interact with people. The free service comes with email notification of upcoming events.

The New Hampshire Surfrider Foundation is also online at