"We're actually doing scientific work, but the dolls are a perk," Tunnell told McClatchy News.
Tunnell said the follower count on the Mission-Aransas Reserve Facebook page has skyrocketed since he started sharing photos of the disturbing dolls. He said about 30 dolls have been found since he started posting the photos.
"The creepiest are the ones that have lost all their hair," he said. "The first one we had found was a sex doll, the head of it. I posted a picture of it and I didn't realize that's what it was. We got a lot of followers on the page after that."
Tunnell said that first doll head, found in January 2021, was purchased by a member of the public for $35, and the money was donated a sea turtle rescue program. He said the dolls are now being kept in a bucket to be sold at the reserve's annual fundraising auction.
"There's a lot of nightmares out there," Tunnell said.
A two-year study conducted by the UT Marine Science Institute found beaches along the Texas Coastal Bend receive 10 times the amount of washed-up trash as Gulf of Mexico beaches in Florida and Mississippi.
Tunnell said the culprit is a "loop current" stretching from the Yucatan Peninsula to Florida. He said the current creates eddies that washes debris toward the Texas coast.