Partner Project Highlights from the MDMAP

People walk on a beach.
Surveyors walk to the start of a shoreline monitoring site on the outer coast of Washington. Photo credit: NOAA MDP

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, and why? 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 working with citizen scientists to collect data across an international network of shoreline survey sites. There are two main types of shoreline surveys, standing-stock and accumulation, that are used by MDMAP volunteers.

Below we highlight some of the longer-term MDMAP shoreline monitoring projects with federal, state, and academic partners who are addressing specific marine debris monitoring questions. To see a full map of the MDMAP monitoring sites and partners, check out the MDMAP database.

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

Region: California
Project Dates: June 2012 - June 2018
Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) trained citizen scientists have been conducting monthly MDMAP standing stock surveys at Drakes Beach, Limantour Beach, South Beach, and North Point Beach since June 2012. In June 2015, GFNMS began recruiting community partners for monthly accumulation surveys at Drakes Beach and Ocean Beach. More information is available at the GFNMS website, and data can be accessed on the MDMAP database.

Citizen Science Marine Debris Monitoring in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Region: Pacific Northwest
Project Dates: June 2012 - July 2019
The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) has been conducting informal shoreline marine debris monitoring since 2001, and began conducting shoreline surveys with trained citizen scientists as part of the MDMAP in June 2012. The OCNMS and their dedicated network of volunteers monitor up to 15 sites each month. More information is available at the OCNMS website, and data can be accessed on the MDMAP database.

Citizen Science Marine Debris Monitoring on the Oregon Coast

Region: Pacific Northwest
Project Dates: January 2014 - September 2018
The Oregon Marine Debris Team, including Oregon Sea Grant, Coastwatch, Surfrider Foundation, and other partners, established a network of shoreline monitoring sites beginning in 2014. A mini-grant program provided support to local community groups surveying 11 sites in Oregon. More information is available at the Oregon Marine Debris Team website, and data can be accessed on the MDMAP database.

Marine Debris Monitoring in the Mission-Aransas NERR

Region: Gulf of Mexico
Project Dates: October 2015 - June 2018
The Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) partnered with the NOAA Marine Debris Program on accumulation surveys as part of the MDMAP. They began monthly sampling in October 2015 at seven sites including Padre Island National Seashore, Mustang Island, and San Jose Island. In addition to recording the amounts and composition of marine debris at their sites, the NERR also monitored the number of sea turtle bites found on the debris. Data collection was completed in October 2017, and partners are currently working on drafting the final report and scientific papers from this monitoring data.

Occurrence and accumulation of marine debris on barrier islands in the northern Gulf of Mexico

Region: Gulf of Mexico
Project Dates: March 2015 - February 2017
The Dauphin Island Sea Lab, located in Alabama, conducted marine debris shoreline accumulation and standing stock surveys from March 2015-February 2017 as part of the MDMAP. Monitoring efforts covered 36 sites across six barrier islands and four states in the northern-central Gulf of Mexico, from Santa Rosa Island in the east, to the Chandeleur Islands in the west. In addition to collecting accumulation data, they also examined possible debris sources and drivers of temporal and spatial trends in debris loads. The first of two scientific papers has been submitted to journal for review, so stay tuned for these results!

Monitoring and Assessment of Marine Debris in Virginia’s Coastal Zone

Region: Mid-Atlantic
Project Dates: May 2014 - March 2018
The Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, the Virginia Aquarium, and Clean Virginia Waterways began conducting shoreline surveys as part of the MDMAP in May 2014. This dedicated team gathered information monthly at four coastal Virginia sites: Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Fisherman Island NWR, Back Bay NWR, and Grandview Nature Preserve. They completed monitoring these four sites in early 2018, and the project team is currently writing a final project report that will include analysis of data from nearly four years of monthly surveys, encompassing four Atlantic hurricane seasons. In addition, the project team will continue to develop and strengthen partnerships with marine debris prevention partners, ocean advocacy organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others. The comprehensive data generated from the project will serve as a baseline against which Virginia can evaluate the effectiveness of its Marine Debris Reduction Plan that was completed in late 2014.