Citizen Scientists Create Big Data on Ocean Trash From Beach Cleanups

Source: News Deeply/Erica Cirino - August 3, 2017 in Science/Tech

Citizen Scientists Create Big Data on Ocean Trash From Beach Cleanups
Photo: Paolo Margari/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Each year millions of people living near the ocean flock to local beaches to take part in international cleanups to help fight ocean plastic pollution. Often, they do so through organizations focused not only on cleaning up the trash but also on collecting data they share with government policymakers. But like beaches inundated with plastic garbage, the government is now awash in data on that refuse and is grappling with how to navigate that sea of information to create policies to reduce marine pollution.

“Suddenly we’ve become a large repository of beach cleanup data as more people participate,” said Keith Cialino, Northeast regional coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris Program. “But there are challenges with ensuring the quality of the data and also deciding how to use it.”

For instance, it’s difficult to vet all the data. “Data accuracy is of utmost importance,” Cialino said. To date, NOAA has collected data from thousands of volunteers monitoring 192 beaches in the United States and 58 beaches overseas.

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