Citizen Science Marine Debris Monitoring in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

Three people surveying a beach for marine debris.
GFNMS volunteers setting up for a standing stock survey at Drakes Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. (Photo Credit: GFNMS)

The NOAA Marine Debris Program has partnered with the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary to monitor marine debris in the Sanctuary.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Monitoring

Region: California

Project Dates: June 2012 - June 2018

Who is involved?
The Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) and the NOAA Marine Debris Program have partnered to engage citizen scientists in collecting baseline information on the occurrence of marine debris within the GFNMS as part of the Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project (MDMAP).

What is the project and why is it important?
Marine debris is a global problem that impacts marine life, damages marine habitats, impedes navigation, impacts our economy, and is a risk to human health and safety. Although we continue to learn more and more about marine debris, there are still many unanswered questions. These include unknowns such as which types of debris are most common in a certain area? Or, how is the problem of marine debris changing over time, and are our efforts to prevent debris effective? The Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project (MDMAP) helps answer these questions and others by collecting baseline data. The data collected through this project can be used to evaluate the impacts of marine debris along our coastlines and can help inform future marine debris mitigation and prevention efforts on a local, regional, and national scale.

The GFNMS started conducting monthly marine debris standing stock surveys at Drakes Beach, Limatour Beach, South Beach, and North Point Beach with trained citizen scientists in June 2012. In June 2015, GFNMS and their citizen scientists began conducting monthly accumulation surveys at Drakes Beach and Ocean Beach. Both the standing stock and accumulation surveys are conducted using methodologies outlined in the NOAA marine debris shoreline survey protocol documents. Accumulation surveys are conducted by a combination of trained citizen scientists, GFNMS staff, and community groups such as schools, businesses, and local organizations. Including such community groups creates the opportunity to conduct education and outreach to the community, in addition to collecting data and cleaning up marine debris.

For more on this project, check out the GFNMS profile on the effort.