Many if not all Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET) volunteers have come across marine debris during their beach walks. Simply put “Marine debris is any man-made, solid material that enters waterways directly through littering or indirectly via rivers, streams and storm drains. Marine debris can be simple items such as a discarded soda can, cigarette butt, or plastic bag that ends up in the ocean potentially harming marine life”. That last part” potentially harming marine life” is central to SEANET’s mission as a citizen science program that brings together interdisciplinary researchers and members of the public in a long-term collaborative effort to identify and mitigate threats to marine birds.
In my continuing attempt to spread the word about SEANET along the eastern seaboard, I was invited to speak about SEANET at a NOAA sponsored workshop on marine debris a few years back. Thus, began my exposure to the MARINE DEBRIS TRACKER program. This program hopes to spread awareness of marine debris, as well as serve as an easy to use and simple tool for marine debris data collection. With Marine Debris Tracker, it just takes a few seconds to easily report where you find marine debris or litter anywhere in the world… and then prevent it from impacting our oceans. A mobile app has been developed to promote the Marine Debris Tracker program.
“The Mobile App Marine Debris Tracker originated in 2010 from a joint partnership of the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative (SEA-MDI), located within the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia. The Marine Debris Tracker is currently available for iPhone and Android platforms. It is simple to use! Marine Debris Tracker is designed exactly for beach cleanup data collection. Instead of the paper data card you would normally use to mark items you find, you simply open the app on your phone, choose items from the list as you find them and log them. The list of items you found will be sent to the Marine Debris Tracker once you view and submit your data from that day”.
So what does it take to be a Marine Debris Tracker?
Try to pick a beach location that you can monitor regularly (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly) at the same general time. Then walk the same area (both horizontally and vertically) each time using Marine Debris Tracker to log (and hopefully picking up using gloves and a trash bag) the debris items that you find. You might want to make note of any major storm events or any other noticeable factors (wind, etc.) that might be influencing the debris that day. So, what does this remind you of? SEANET walks on the beach!!
To date, the Marine Debris Tracker program resulted in thousands of people logging and removing over THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION pieces of litter and debris all over the world!
In closing, I really like the Marine Debris Tracker’s slogan “Leave only waves and footprints behind…” So the next time you hear the term Marine Debris, think Marine Debris Tracker and spread the word!