Citizen Science Marine Debris Monitoring on the Oregon Coast

Four people surveying a beach for marine debris.
Volunteers search the driftwood for debris during a survey at Rocky Point. (Photo Credit: Redfish Rocks Community Team)

The NOAA Marine Debris Program partnered with the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies at Oregon State University to develop a pilot marine debris monitoring program for the Oregon Coast.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Monitoring

Region: Pacific Northwest

Project Dates: July 2012 - September 2018

Who is involved?
The Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies (CIMRS) and the NOAA Marine Debris Program worked with the Oregon Marine Debris Team to create a marine debris monitoring program in the state. The Oregon Marine Debris Team, which included the Surfrider Foundation, SOLVE, the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition CoastWatch Program, Washed Ashore, and Oregon Sea Grant, engaged citizen scientists in coastal communities to collect baseline information on the occurrence of marine debris along the Oregon Coast 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 Oregon Marine Debris Team condcuted monthly marine debris accumulation surveys as part of a pilot citizen science marine debris monitoring program in 2012. The team and their dedicated network of partners and volunteers monitored 11 sites each month using the accumulation survey methodology outlined in the NOAA marine debris shoreline survey protocol documents. Monthly accumulation surveys take a lot of work, so the Oregon Marine Debris Team worked with local community groups and schools to conduct the surveys and provide support to these groups through a mini-grant process. Working with local community groups and schools also provided an opportunity to conduct education and outreach with the public, in addition to collecting data and cleaning up marine debris.