New Tools for Collecting and Exploring Marine Debris Data

Posted Thu, 11/03/2022 - 11:00

Marine debris is a familiar sight on shorelines around the world, and a reminder that there is still work to be done to tackle this global environmental problem. While we know a lot about marine debris, there are questions that can help test and identify the best solutions. How much marine debris is on our shores? What kind of debris is it, and where does it come from? Are these things changing over time? You can help find the answers through NOAA’s Marine Debris Program Monitoring and Assessment Project! An updated Monitoring Toolbox contains all of the resources you need to get started.

Four people surveying a shoreline transect for marine debris.
An updated MDMAP Shoreline Survey Guide and other Monitoring Toolbox materials were released this year (Credit: NOAA).

Through the NOAA Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project, or MDMAP,  our partners and volunteers around the world survey and record the amount and types of marine debris on shorelines. The Monitoring Toolbox is the one-stop shop for getting oriented to MDMAP. Based on input from participants and users of the data, we recently updated the entire Toolbox. Check it out:

  • Training videos in English and Spanish that walk you through each step, from choosing the right site all the way through learning how to categorize and record your data in the MDMAP database 
  • A Shoreline Survey Guide with written instructions and diagrams on how to conduct a survey and collect important information
  • A Marine Debris Item Categorization Guide, which describes how to count and categorize marine debris with photo examples
  • Field datasheets, which include a quick guide to conducting a survey 
  • Examples of publications and projects that have used MDMAP data
  • An open access MDMAP Database for data entry, exploration, and retrieval
  • And more!

If you’re curious about what others have already found, visit the MDMAP open access database. New interactive data visualizations allow you to explore results and see the amounts and kinds of debris reported. View the data in different ways using filters, select from a site or set of sites, and download it using the export button. Your site can be part of this important public dataset!

Interested in joining this growing network? Watch the introduction video below and other video tutorials to get started surveying a shoreline near you. At any point, reach out to project staff at with questions. See you on the shore!

New Tools for Collecting and Exploring Marine Debris Data

Posted Thu, 11/03/2022 - 11:00

For citation purposes, unless otherwise noted, this article was authored by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

The Marine Debris Blog is no longer accepting comments but continues to display past contributions.


Fri, 11/04/2022 - 03:03

... During all my years of teaching, I was blessed to have taught Marine Biology for several years in a South Florida high school. I also took my students to the Florida Keys where we did a lot of hands on marine biology field work. We snorkeled, did some scuba diving, did beach cleanup, collected specimens, and much more. One of my junior high classes did a shore clean up on the St. John's River during my teaching time in Jacksonville, FL. I could go on further, but I hope you get the idea.

Jacob Padilla

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 19:14

...As a indigenous lost bird from the tribe I’m ashamed to be a part of the contribution to the earth’s slow destruction but knowing that I’m part of the problem I am committed to walk softly and leave no prints behind!

Abdülhamit Doğanay

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 13:51

Excellent work. Congratulations. I would love to work with NOAA. :)