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Airdate: Jun 09, 2008
Scientist: Adina Paytan

Science Diary: Beach Sand - Beach

Science Diary: Beach Sand - Beach
Could bacteria in beach sand be contaminating ocean water? Two middle school students are attempting to find out.

Transcript:
music; ambience: beach, laughter

The sounds of the beach and laughter conjure images of barbecues and volleyball. But science fair projects? Well, for two middle school students measuring bacteria in the sand, their research takes place on the beaches of California. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside.

"We're at Cowell's Beach in Santa Cruz. Ella and Rose are collecting sand samples to get a full core of sand from about a foot depth in the sand over here."

Dr. Adina Paytan is an oceanographer at the University of California in Santa Cruz; she's volunteered to assist Rose and Ella through the various stages of their ongoing science project.

"Now we're sticking our sand tubes into sand at site A."

That's Ella. She and Rose are testing a hypothesis that bacteria in beach sand could be contaminating ground and ocean water, resulting in beach closures. By testing bacteria levels in sand taken from various locations and depths, they hope to understand the transfer of contaminants between sand and water.

"When we tested last year we found that there was the most bacteria in the sand at six inches deep, so we want to find out how much bacteria starts in the sand."

The students will test each sample for coliform bacteria which are present in feces. And so if the tests are positive for coliform, it's an indication that there's you know what in the sand.

Adina: "So we're taking enough samples to give some statistics to know how often you meet this kind of contamination in the sand."

We'll hear more about this ambitious science project in future programs.

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