Pictured: Attendees learning about AMSI with Allison Durn from Tangaroa Blue. Photo by Sharon Meredith.
Blog by Jennie Beeson
On Friday 22nd February I attended a workshop about an exciting Citizen Science project - the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI). The workshop was hosted by the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council and was facilitated by Allison Durn from Tangaroa Blue, an organisation focused on the health of the marine environment and they coordinate the AMDI.
Citizen science projects are projects that regular people can get involved with to help collect data to contribute to scientific projects. The beauty of these projects is that you don’t have to be a “scientist” with many letters after your name, you just need a sense of curiosity and the desire to help out.
The AMDI is one such citizen science project that people can help with, which is particularly important given our growing global understanding of how problematic plastic pollution is for our marine and aquatic environments.
The AMDI is a database used to collect data about debris found in and around Australia’s waterways. This data is vital to gain an understanding of the types and amounts of rubbish that are entering our rivers, oceans and lakes. The data then provides the evidence required to create solutions and measure the impact of those solutions. It comes back to the old adage of “if you can’t measure it, you can’t change it”.
“If all we ever do is clean up, that’s all we’ll ever do” – Tangaroa Blue
To be able to reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in the waterways we first need to be able to quantify how much there is to give an idea of the size of the problem, and to be able to determine if any changes that we put in place are having an impact. It’s not enough to just say that “there’s too much rubbish in the ocean”, although most people would agree that this statement is true.
By identifying what type of rubbish is in the waterways we can get an idea of where it is coming from and this can then be used to start to work on a source reduction plan (SRP). Perhaps a solution could be to put more rubbish bins at certain locations, or provide containers for the disposal of fishing line. Perhaps it could be to stop serving plastic straws with cold drinks at beachside cafes.
Collecting the data
During a beach cleanup or just when walking at the beach, rubbish is collected and then sorted into the various types in the list below. The details of the amounts can then be entered into the database, either via database page on the the Tangaroa Blue website, or via your phone using an app you can download (search for ‘Tangaroa Blue – AMDI’ in your app store).
You enter your clean up details – date, time, duration, number of people, weight of rubbish collected, length of coastline/river front covered and location. Then you enter the type and amount of rubbish. The main categories are:
- Plastic items – consumer, packaging, fishing & remnants
- Foamed plastic
- Other materials
- Glass and ceramic items
- Cloth items
- Metal items
- Paper and cardboard
- Wood items
- Additional items
Each category includes a further breakdown into sub-categories. The list is extensive and there’s space to add “miscellaneous” items if you need to.
At the workshop, a discussion from locals and Allison regarding tips from previous clean ups is to sort as you go if you can and if possible to have people allocated just to data entry, especially if your clean up is large. All of this information and more is available from the Tangaroa Blue website.
“…anyone can contribute - it doesn’t need to be a huge effort to clean up, just when you’re walking along your favorite beach “take 3 for the sea” (or more), and enter it into the database”
My key learnings from the workshop
In addition to learning about this project, I learned that there is a wonderful community within the Peel region committed to cleaning up and maintaining our waterways. They are committed to educating, promoting and learning more about keeping clean the amazing environment that we live in.
I also learned that anyone can contribute - it doesn’t need to be a huge effort to clean up, just when you’re walking along your favorite beach “take 3 for the sea” (or more), and enter it into the database as you go if you have the mobile app, or when you get home.
How can you get involved?
You can do your own mini beach clean by collecting rubbish when you’re at the beach. Download the Tangaroa Blue – AMDI app and enter data as you go, or you can enter the data online from a computer. It doesn’t have to be a huge full beach clean-up, any data is good data.
If you’re not quite ready to head out on your own or want to meet some fellow citizen scientists, join “Coastal Waste Warriors” via Facebook and get involved in one of their events. The next one is scheduled for 24th March, 9am-11am at Town Beach in Mandurah.
You can also join in any one of the other many events scheduled for the month of March for the Clean Up Peel Waterways.
Follow Peel-Harvey Catchment Council on Facebook or at www.peel-harvey.org.au and find out about other Citizen Science opportunities, or check out the Australian Citizen Science Association’s online database of current citizen science projects and opportunities.
Thanks very much to Sharon Meredith at PHCC for the photos and to Alison Durn at Tangaroa Blue for running the workshop.
About the author
Jennie has lived in Mandurah for about 12 years and loves the coastal location and the dynamic amazing people she has met here. She has been a Process Engineer in heavy industries as well as teaching maths and engineering subjects at TAFE. She loves learning and is often found doing a course or learning new skills - the latest being to learn the drums.