Microplastics are a component of ocean litter smaller than 5mm. Primary microplastics, like microbeads found in personal care products, are engineered to be small, whereas secondary microplastics form from the break-up of larger plastic items. We have observed microplastic pollution in beach sediments from over 15 countries, including remote Pacific Islands. In beach sands along the California coast, synthetic fibers are the most commonly observed microplastic items.

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Maui / Cook Islands

I have a deep affinity for islands, particularly the islands of the Pacific, and I have created unique, immersive educational experiences for undergraduate research studying marine resources in the Cook Islands and humpback whale behaviour in Maui.

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Ocean Litter

An interdisciplinary group of CI faculty, staff and students are participating in a NOAA marine-debris program funded project to monitor the ecological effects of fishing debris removal at 7 sites in Channel Islands National Park and 2 mainland sites. We have been awarded two NOAA Marine Debris Program grants to support our research projects in the Channel Islands. Between the two projects we have removed approximately 5000kg (11,000 pounds) of trash and debris from 7 sites on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Island.

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Dr. Steele is an applied marine ecologist with extensive experience in marine and coastal environments around the world, conducting research and natural resource assessments to enable informed management decisions. She has conducted research assessing the benefits of protected areas and community-based resource management to reef fish assemblages and artisanal fisheries in the Philippines, Fiji, Kenya and the Bahamas. In southern California, her research has focused on productivity of fishes on natural kelp and artificial reefs, and assessing anthropogenic impacts to sandy beach ecological communities.

Dr. Steele’s current research focuses on the impact of human activities on marine and coastal natural resources. Her ongoing research in the California Channel Islands and Southern California coast examines the ecological impacts of ocean litter and microplastic debris on coastal ecosystems. Dedicated to providing research opportunities to undergraduate students, she creates educational and research experiences in the California coastal zone and at CSUCI’s undergraduate research station on Santa Rosa Island.

Courses at CSUCI

CSUCI Classes Fall Semester 2023

  • Introduction to Environmental Science and Resource Management ESRM 100
  • Conservation Biology ESRM 313 BIO 313
  • Environmental Law and Policy ESRM 329
  • The Beach ESRM 335
  • Analytics Studio ESRM 400
  • Fish and Fisheries ESRM 461
  • Coastal and Marine Resource Management ESRM 462
  • Global Issues in Resource Management ESRM 483
  • Service Learning in New Orleans ESRM 492
  • Capstone Preparation ESRM 491
  • Independent Research ESRM 494
  • Environmental Film and Speaker Series COMM 496 ESRM 496
  • Capstone ESRM 499
  • International Experience – Pacific Islands Ecosystem Management: Cook Islands UNIV  392_5
  • Ecotourism and Marine Megafauna in Maui UNIV 391

Courses taught elsewhere:

  • Seminar in Ecology – Reproductive Ecology BIOL 615C (CSUN)
  • Biology and Ecology of Fishes BIO U507 BIO G207 (NEU)
  • Botany BIO 102 (URI)