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How Galveston Researchers Are Putting Seaweed To Use

As summer approaches, more people are heading to Galveston Beach. But the warm weather also means more seaweed is washing up along the shore. Researchers are finding innovative ways to put it to use.

Bucket Brigades
Bucket Brigades educating visitors on the benefits of seaweed. Photo credit: Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

 

You’re enjoying a stroll along the shore, when all of a sudden some slimy brown leaves brush against your foot. It’s called sargassum, or seaweed, and large amounts of it can unexpectedly wash up on the beach.

Kelly de Shaun is director of the Galveston Park Board. She says those seaweed landings can prevent people from wanting to visit.

“Galveston is what we call the playground for Houston, and I think that some of the landings last year maybe motivated those folks to look for alternative forms of recreation,” de Shaun says.

Sure, many people find seaweed gross, but de Shaun says it doesn’t pose a health risk. She says the Gulf Coast has seen an uptick in recent years, but the Park Board has found some creative uses for all that seaweed. They used it to build dunes that support plant life and protect the seawall during storms.

“Desperation is the mother of all invention, right?” she says. “We’ve gotten very innovative down here in Galveston, and the local brewing company actually brews a sargassum beer.”

Researchers at NASA and Texas A&M Galveston have launched a new website that tracks seaweed before it reaches the shore. de Shaun says the forecast can help beach managers get a head start on clean up.

“The fact that we can now anticipate the arrivals within days or weeks really facilities us to be able to mobilize our crews and our equipment,” she says.

And there’s good news — the latest forecast shows no seaweed is expected to wash up on the Gulf Coast for the next several weeks.

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Tomeka Weatherspoon

Senior Producer

Tomeka Weatherspoon is an Emmy-award winning producer. She produces segments, the weekly television program Arts InSight, the short film showcase The Territory and a forthcoming digital series on innovation. Originally from the Midwest, Tomeka studied convergence journalism from the world’s first journalism school at the University of Missouri. She has...

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