Marine Litter Studies Supported by Citizen Scientists
People from a wide range of educational backgrounds have supported scientific studies on marine litter. Their interest to participate in this kind of investigation may vary depending on their own personal motivation, which may include being part of an environmental organization (e.g. marine conservation NGO, girl & boy scouts) or an educational project within a school (Fig. 16.1). For example, beach cleanup
Fig. 16.1 Examples of citizen scientists participating in studies on marine litter
campaigns are conducted in many countries, and can be a source of marine litter information supported by citizen scientists (e.g. Ribic 1998; Martin 2013).
For this review, marine litter studies were identified by searching the ISI Web of Knowledge and Google Scholar databases for papers using the keywords “citizen science” or “volunteer” with “marine litter”, “marine debris” or “plastic debris”. We thoroughly scanned the literature, identifying all studies in which volunteers had participated in sampling and/or sample processing. We only selected studies with a main focus on marine litter; studies which coincidentally also report interactions of litter with marine biota were not considered, unless these explicitly focused on litter aspects, such as plastic ingestion and entanglement by seabirds and marine mammals (Moore et al. 2009; van Franeker et al. 2011). At the time of writing, 40 marine litter studies were identified, which were based entirely or partly on data or samples contributed by citizen scientists (Appendix 1).
We also selected 40 peer-reviewed articles that were exclusively conducted by professional scientists, in order to compare those with and evaluate the importance, scope and quality of citizen-science studies. For the purpose of this review, we only included the most cited papers (according to ISI Web of Knowledge and Google Scholar databases) that have been published during the past 10 years (2004–2014). Keywords used to identify these studies were “marine litter”, “marine debris”, “plastic debris” and “beach survey”. Review articles were not considered for this comparison between citizen science and professional studies (see Appendix 1 for the complete list of selected studies).