Cleaning Beaches, Collecting Data
A key aspect of the Adopt-a-Beach program is data collection. As volunteer teams clean beaches, they become community scientists, recording what they find and contributing to a larger cause.
Why collect litter data?
Collecting data influences decisions about our public spaces, drinking water, and environment. By recording exactly what types and how much litter is found on beaches, volunteers help scientists study sources of pollution and help policy makers develop new programs and policies.
Also, while scientists have been studying plastic pollution in the ocean for decades, there is a lot less research about plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Adopt-a-Beach data collection is one way our Great Lakes community is beginning to fill that gap.
20 years of data
Thanks to Adopt-a-Beach teams, we have nearly 20 years of data from cleanups in all eight Great Lakes states. No lab or individual researcher could collect this large data set on their own. Long-term data sets are particularly valuable to researchers and policy makers because they can demonstrate trends over time and show both positive and negative changes.
When volunteers enter litter data after a cleanup, their data is automatically added to our coastal litter database. Once a year, the Alliance sends our regional database to the Ocean Conservancy, which maintains a global database of coastal litter.
If you are a researcher, educator, policy maker or planner, or an interested citizen, we’d be happy to provide data to you. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We can send graphical summaries or raw data sets depending on your needs.
Recent data summaries
Publications using Adopt-a-Beach™ data
Hoellein, Timothy J.; Westhoven, Megan; Lyandres, Olga & Cross, Jamie, (2014). Abundance and environmental drivers of anthropogenic litter on 5 Lake Michigan beaches: A study facilitated by citizen science data collection. Journal of Great Lakes Research
Vincent, Anna; Drag, Nate; Lyandres, Olga; Neville, Sarah & Hoellein, Timothy, (2016). Citizen science datasets reveal drivers of spatial and temporal variation for anthropogenic litter on Great Lakes beaches. Science of the Total Environment
Driedger, Alexander G.J.; Durr, Hans H.; Mitchell, Kristen & Van Cappellen, Phillippe, (2015). Plastic debris in the Laurentian Great Lakes: A review. Journal of Great Lakes Research