Monitoring methodologies to standardise citizen science data

In an Australian first, the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) has released monitoring protocols for litter and marine debris. These proven methodologies have been developed in collaboration with experts from UNSW, UTAS, SCU, MU as well as the Tangaroa Blue Foundation data team. They offer a standardised approach for citizen scientists collecting this important data on a national scale.

Robust monitoring programs led by citizen scientists are vital in guiding marine debris reduction and prevention strategies, and to protect the future of our marine resources. As part of the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI), new monitoring protocols for litter and marine debris have been developed and released, offering a standardised approach for collecting this important data on a national scale. 

Organised beach clean-ups and litter surveys have become increasingly popular, with dedicated volunteers and community groups contributing their time to keep the environment free from rubbish. Marine debris has become one of the most pervasive threats to our oceans on a global scale, with millions of tonnes of plastic entering the sea annually. The impact of marine debris is extensive, threatening not only wildlife and maritime activities, but our environment, health, culture and economy. 

Community clean-up surveys provide crucial data on the amount and different types of debris found, as well as hotspots where it is accumulating. While these surveys are essential to gain an understanding of marine debris issues, the development and implementation of consistent monitoring programs along the litter pathway will be a game-changer. The ongoing collection of data using a standard framework will aid in further analysing these issues, as well as evaluating the success of prevention activities.

The most effective way to reduce marine debris is to stop litter at the source, and this requires extensive monitoring efforts. To really address this problem, we need more robust data to better understand the movement and impact of debris, not only along the coast but also upstream in the communities where many of the issues begin. The AMDI monitoring protocols for litter and marine debris outlines the standardised methods for collecting and recording data, allowing citizen scientists to tailor monitoring activities to their chosen site. 

CEO of Tangaroa Blue Foundation Heidi Tait stated that they are now seeking citizen scientists who are willing to adopt local sites and commit to regular monitoring and data collection. By establishing these monitoring sites, citizen scientists, local councils, organisations, businesses and community groups can help with developing the Source Reduction Plans needed to adequately address the growing challenge of marine debris. Monitoring sites may include inland waterways, estuaries, on the ground areas such as parks, built drainage, coastal shorelines and underwater.

“By contributing this data on a continuous basis, you will be able to understand at an itemised and quantifiable level the marine debris signature of your area” says Tait, “and start impactful conversations with stakeholder groups to develop litter and marine debris reduction strategies. The long-term data not only supports the case to set prevention targets, but also to measure success in reaching those targets”. 

Tangaroa Blue Foundation would like to acknowledge the Mostyn Family Foundation and the
Australian Citizen Science Association who kindly supported the development of this publication.

Monitoring Methodology

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Underwater AMDI Monitoring Methodology Protocals_2022

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On the ground AMDI Monitoring Methodology Protocols_2022

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Estuary AMDI Monitoring Methodology Protocols_2022

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Built Drainage AMDI Monitoring Methodology Protocols_2022

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All site types AMDI Monitoring Methodology Protocols_2022

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