A group of university students is spending the summer trudging through tons of stinky seaweed on Galveston's beaches, trying to figure out exactly how much has landed in this record-breaking year and how long it might take for the mucky masses to disappear.
The final results of the research being done by eight graduate and undergraduate students at Texas A&M University at Galveston won't be ready until later this year, the Houston Chronicle reported Sunday.
But preliminary findings show that on May 22 alone more than 8,400 tons of Sargassum seaweed landed on a 3.3-mile stretch of beach. That day has so far been the worst, but this year has seen record amounts of seaweed rolling in from the Sargassum Sea.
The bug-and-muck-filled seaweed tends to smell and cover the sand, making it difficult for beach-goers and tourists to enjoy the coast. Towns spend thousands of dollars to bulldoze and remove the seaweed.
The students' work is meant to assist Galveston and other Gulf Coast cities deal with a problem that appears to be growing, said Robert Webster, a Texas A&M research assistant who is overseeing the study.
Webster developed the Sargassum Early Advisory System, which warns coastal cities in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama when seaweed is approaching so they can prepare.
"One of my fears is that what's happening now will become the norm instead of the exception," he said.