Citizen Science

Although Hawaiian Islands are small and remote, with virtually no local production, their location in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (or so called North Pacific Garbage Patch), results in high amounts of marine debris found on beaches and in surrounding waters. Marine debris comes to Hawaii from all Pacific Rim countries and travels a significant distance before reaching the coastlines of the islands. On the other hand, tourist activity and other local sources generate pollutions that may be flushed into the ocean and remain invisible in the local balance. One of the pressing issues is to better understand the life cycle of marine debris from its sources, through transport mechanism and its sinks. In addition, the total mass balance of marine debris is still not well quantified with many unknowns related to the fate of plastic in marine environments.

Thankfully, numerous organizations on the Hawaiian Islands bring people together to help reduce the amount of debris by cleaning the beaches and reefs. However, their mission can only succeed if combined with prevention based on education, laws and best business practices. Ultimately, fundamental research on the dynamics and impacts of marine debris is necessary to ensure that measures are adequate and efficient. Hawaii Marine Debris Action Plan (HI-MDAP) is an example of platform facilitating interaction between different groups and missions. It includes many governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations, private businesses, industries and academic partners. Majority of observational data necessary for a meaningful research comes from non-scientists. We need to bring together all local, national and international entities having interest in the state of marine debris in Hawaii and other states to enhance collaboration between us. For examples cleanup activities can contribute to data collection, research results can provide guidance for marine debris prevention and reduction of impacts on the environment.

Here, I am showing one example of the type of research that can be conducted using data collected from our precious volunteers in Hawaii. This poster was presented at the 6th International Marine Debris Conference during March 2018 in San Diego.