Collecting Marine Debris Data
Marine debris is a familiar sight on shorelines around the world, and a reminder that there is still work to be done to tackle this global environmental problem. While we know a lot about marine debris, there are questions that can help test and identify the best solutions. How much marine debris is on our shores? What kind of debris is it, and where does it come from? Are these things changing over time?
Knowing more about the different types and amounts of debris found on a beach, or even on your street, can be the first step towards preventing it. In order to learn more about the problem and understand the types and amount of marine debris in our environment, we need to collect data - and you can help!
Counting Debris On the Go
There are many different ways you can collect information about marine debris and litter in your community! One popular way to document debris on the go is by using apps that are designed to record counts of debris items on your phone. There are many different apps used by organizations around the world to collect marine debris data, including the University of Georgia’s Debris Tracker App and the Ocean Conservancy’s CleanSwell® App. Both of these apps have been supported by the NOAA Marine Debris Program through current and past partnerships.
The Debris Tracker App was created in 2010, as a joint initiative between the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative (SEA-MDI), and was managed by the University of Georgia College of Engineering. The Debris Tracker is now powered by Morgan Stanley in partnership with National Geographic Society and the University of Georgia, with additional support from 11th Hour Racing. The app can be used wherever you are and data can be downloaded for free through an online database after creating an account.
The CleanSwell® App was developed by the Ocean Conservancy to support data collection during their annual International Coastal Cleanup. Data collected using this app contributes to the Ocean Conservancy’s global trash database and can be accessed online for free after creating an account.
Monitoring Marine Debris Using MDMAP
Although recording marine debris information on the go can be a great way to document debris when you happen to see it, standardized data collection at the same location over time can be used to help answer questions about marine debris, such as how big the problem is, how it’s changing over time, and what kinds of debris are most common in your area.
The NOAA Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project (MDMAP) is great for researchers, students, families, organizations, and volunteers that want to get involved in the science of monitoring debris. Each dedicated partner in the MDMAP network selects a nearby shoreline monitoring site where they collect monthly data on marine debris and submit it to the MDMAP Database.
Want to learn more about getting involved in MDMAP? Our Monitoring Toolbox contains all of the resources you need to get started including training videos in English and Spanish, a Shoreline Survey Guide, data sheets, and more! For more information on collecting marine debris data, visit our Monitoring Toolbox Frequently Asked Questions.