Plastic pollution is a global threat to our oceans. The actions of individuals can help mitigate the problem through positive changes in behavior, and they can also help researchers better understand the distribution and type of marine debris through citizen science.
The Marine Debris Tracker is a citizen science data collection app developed by Dr. Jenna Jambeck and Dr. Kyle J. Johnsen from the University of Georgia. The app is used to compile global data on the amount, distribution and type of debris observed or collected by users. To date the application has approximately 1,500 regular users (and over 15,000 downloads) who have collectively logged 1.2 million pieces of debris. This open-source data feeds directly into peer-reviewed research on marine debris and is the only application that can be used offshore by sailors and boaters, including through the Volvo Ocean Race.
This grant project built on and expanded the Marine Debris Tracker app, as well as forged new partnerships with the new marine debris startup company Seabin and the Sea Education Association with the goal of using and applying the data collected to inform change around the world.
The University of Georgia, a land-grant and sea-grant university with statewide commitments and responsibilities is the state’s oldest, most comprehensive, and most diversified institution of higher education. Its motto, “to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things,” reflects the University’s integral and unique role in the conservation and enhancement of the state’s and nation’s intellectual, cultural, and environmental heritage. With its statewide mission and core characteristics, the University of Georgia endeavors to prepare the University community and the state for full participation in the global society of the twenty-first century.
The New Materials Institute (NMI) is a year old interdisciplinary institute at UGA that is proactively addressing waste, before it becomes waste, through the development of new materials, product design and circular materials management. NMI works with a range of partners — from industry, to businesses, governments, foundations and other organizations, as well as individuals. NMI is led by bringing together 20 years each of experience in polymer chemistry (Jason Locklin) and in environmental engineering/solid waste management (Jenna Jambeck), along with a wide variety of faculty across the UGA campuses, including the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. NMI has extensive analytical testing capabilities that include polymer chemistry, physical testing of polymers and plastics, solid waste characterization, and microplastic counting and identification.