Citizen science

We're delighted to announce that our 2018 citizen science partnership is with: The Plastic Tide - help us to keep our beaches and oceans clean this British Science Week.

Our partnership for 2018

This year, we’re delighted to announce that our Zooniverse citizen science partnership is with The Plastic Tide. They’re a charity made up of ocean, science and tech enthusiasts obsessed with working out ways to clean up our oceans of marine litter and plastic.

Their simple citizen science project works by getting members of the public to tag images of the coast that contain pieces of litter. During British Science Week, want want you to help us tag 250,000 images.

Ocean waste is having a huge impact on wildlife, as many of our precious sea creatures are ingesting and getting trapped in plastics, which is harming them and the food chain – which could even include us!

The Plastic Tide are cleaning up our seas and coastlines – and you can help!

What is the challenge?

They are tackling one of the biggest problems once litter enters our oceans; where does it go?  Only 1% of the estimated total amount of plastics in our ocean is known, the rest is missing. Without this knowledge we can’t tell exactly what damage it is doing and how we can effectively clear it up and keep it cleared up.

How do the public help?

The Plastic Tide’s ultimate mission is to create a machine learning algorithm that can automatically detect, identify and monitor marine litter in images supplied by armies of drones surveying beaches. The public are asked to click on pieces of litter they see in an image – it’s that simple. But the rewards are huge. It offers, for the first time, a tool that can help us understand not only where plastics and marine litter goes, but what kind and how much.

Drones survey beaches to capture images for tagging

What has been done so far?

They have so far removed over 1 tonne of plastics from UK beaches, thanks to the help from a growing global network of drone surveyors and 1.3 million tags on over 12,000 images from people just like you! This has allowed them to develop a prototype algorithm that can detect around 25% of plastics in images of beaches that it has not seen before – an incredible step forward!

Our target

We want to give The Plastic Tide another 250,000 image tags during British Science Week. Will you help us achieve this goal?

How can you get involved?

We want thousands of people to help combat the menace of litter in our oceans. We understand that many of you can’t access the beach to help clean up, but you can do something from your living room, office or classroom. Just 15 minutes per day spent tagging plastics and litter you see in the images online would make a huge difference. To get started, go to: https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/theplastictide/the-plastic-tide 

You can begin clicking images now – every little helps, but the official counter will be put up during British Science Week (10 – 19 March 2018), where we will aim to smash the target of 250,000 image tags.

What impact will this have?
Each tag you provide will help the algorithm to detect thousands, even hundreds of thousands more litter items. This algorithm will be open and freely available for scientists, companies, governments, beach clean organisations, you and us to understand where, what type and when litter builds up on our coastlines. This is vital knowledge in helping us coordinate better and bigger beach cleans and creating a #VisionFromTheSkies 

The impact will be huge. Keeping our oceans clean will help millions of marine animals, including corals, fish, and mammals such as dolphins.

Our marine worlds are full of plastic and litter – most of which we cannot find

Image credits: theplastictide.com 

Find out more

You can explore the project here: https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/theplastictide/the-plastic-tide

And don’t forget to tune in to the stunning Blue Planet II, on every Sunday at 20.00 on BBC 1, or catch up on iPlayer. This significant and beautiful series, narrated by David Attenborough, highlights just how important it is to protect our stunning and abundant oceans: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/p04tjbtx?suggid=p04tjbtx

What other ways can you help?

There are many ways in which you can help to reduce plastic and litter in our oceans. Below are some resources to give you inspiration:

Extra reading

Below is a selection of articles covering the impact of plastics and litter in our oceans, and some positive stories about others who are also trying to make a difference:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/plastic-rubbish-tide-caribbean-island-roatan-honduras-coast-pollution-a8017381.html

http://news.sky.com/story/bottle-made-from-50-ocean-plastic-hits-shelves-11097513

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5017133/Coral-ingesting-plastic.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/16/high-street-outlets-move-to-ditch-plastic-amid-environmental-concerns

http://www.nme.com/news/tv/david-attenborough-danger-plastic-impact-filming-blue-planet-2-2150274

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/item/4f6b6e5d-af94-46c4-9a11-f50aae22136e

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/05/prince-charles-warns-plastic-now-menu-due-amount-ingested-fish/

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/johnson-johnson-cotton-buds-plastic-half-world-marine-pollution-sea-life-a7577556.html