Citizen science

Our 2018 citizen science partnership was with The Plastic Tide - watch this space for our 2019 project...

Our partnership for 2018: The Plastic Tide

This year, our Zooniverse citizen science partnership was 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, we managed to get 1,500,000 image tags. A huge thanks to everyone involved!

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!

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

How can you get involved?

British Science Week is now over, but you can still tag the images here: 

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: 

Find out more

You can explore the project here:

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: