FAQ

  • Will Marine Debris Tracker be available on other platforms?

Marine Debris Tracker is currently available for iPhone and Android platforms. iPod Touches and iPads do not have integrated GPS, so while they can be used, the GPS coordinate will need to be from triangulated wi-fi, limiting their use to locations where this is available or by using a connecting GPS supply (case with integrated GPS or GPS with bluetooth communication). Feel free to suggest other platforms you think would be useful!
  • Do I have to be in 3G, wi-fi or cell range service to use Marine Debris Tracker?

No, we realize that the majority of debris tracking might take place in remote areas or even on the water. You can log and track as many items as you want, they will be stored as you press Add to Log. Then you can press View and Submit where you can upload them later once you are back in 3G/wi-fi/cell signal.
  • How can I use this tool for my beach cleanup data collection?

It is simple! Marine Debris Tracker is designed exactly for beach cleanup data collection. Instead of the paper data card you would normally use to mark items you find, you simply open the app on your phone, choose items from the list as you find them and log them. The list of items you found will be sent to our database once you View and Submit your data from that day. Then, the data (in an Excel file) will be available for download from the View and Get Data Page.
  • I don’t want all the data in the database, just my data, how do I do that?

Enter your username and password on the View and Get Data Page so that you can just download the data associated with that username and password (you have to click the box “download all data” to get all data anonymously). We will also be making other filter options so that you can download data from only certain locations (e.g., individual or multiple countries and states). Once you download the data you choose to, you can then send this data to whomever you would like to share it with – it is your choice.
  • How do I conduct beach cleanups or track marine debris?

You can always just log any debris item you see when you casually visit the beach. If you feel it is safe, you can also pick it up and recycle or dispose of it properly. Do not try to pick up large items, dead animals or anything that you suspect to be hazardous. See these guidelines for collecting Tsunami Debris, which are good overall guidelines when collecting any marine debris. To conduct regular beach monitoring and cleanup, we recommend getting in touch with a local group who conducts beach cleanups in your area. At least once a year, the Ocean Conservancy leads an International Coastal Cleanup. We have also compiled a handy map of over 1200 beach cleanup events/groups/locations in the US for you to find one locally! While NOAA has specific marine debris monitoring protocols that you can request by emailing MD.monitoring@noaa.gov. You can also follow some very general guidelines. Try to pick a beach location that you can monitor regularly (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly) at the same general time. Then walk the same area (both horizontally and vertically) each time using Marine Debris Tracker to log (and hopefully picking up using gloves and a trash bag) the debris items that you find. You might want to make note of any major storm events or any other noticeable factors (wind, etc.) that might be influencing the debris that day. You can keep track of your marine debris data over time and then examine trends, etc. These are good activities for students to conduct too. Note: These are not instructions or recommendations, only general guidelines that might be followed. We highly recommend you meet with local groups to learn more specifically about how to safely conduct regular beach cleanups.
  • Can I use Marine Debris Tracker to log Tsunami Debris?

Yes, Marine Debris Tracker has been mentioned by NOAA and others as a good way to log locations of suspected Japanese Tsunami Debris. We recommend reading the latest updates at the Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Joint Information Center. They have also posted important guidelines that should be followed for your safety. If you are using Marine Debris Tracker to log suspected tsunami debris items, at this time, we ask you to make a note of “TD” in the Description section of each item and say why you think it is tsunami debris. For example write “TD Japanese writing on buoy”. [We eventually will have a check box for tsunami debris]. While NOAA has open access to our data, you should also download your data from our website (everything you need is there in one file and downloads in seconds) and email it to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov.
  • Will you be incorporating photo capture?

Yes, we are working on providing the capability to capture a photo with debris items that you log.
  • I am concerned about privacy and security. Can I upload my data on a time delay? Is my username associated with downloaded data?

We care about your safety and privacy. A user has the option to submit each tracked item in real time if they so choose (you have to press View and Submit after every item), but the default is to store all locations/items logged while you are tracking. Then, you can press View and Submit and submit them any time after you finish your tracking. By storing the data and submitting later, you can incorporate your own time delay so that you cannot be tracked in real time. E.g., a user can wait to submit all data once they return home, or simply delay submission by an hour. The storage of the data is also necessary to the functionality of the app so that the user can still track items without 3G/wi-fi/cell signal. Then uploading can take place once a user is back in signal range – or at any time after that. A more casual user of the app might just submit one or two items as they find it too. The most recent tracked items (only 5 items) on the homepage of the website only give the username and city and state location, not the exact GPS coordinates. There is no way to correlate the exact coordinates with this username from the homepage. The data that is available for download are not associated with any usernames. To participate in protecting yourself, we also recommend choosing a username that does not identify you easily.
  • How will you be using this data? How will you take into account mistakes in logging or tracking by people?

Marine Debris Tracker is a tool we provide to you, the user. The only way to know if data is accurate is if you are the user entering it, or know the people entering it (e.g., if you have a group beach cleanup). The tool is provided so that you can track and log marine debris and then access your data quickly and easily in an electronic form after (download it directly from the website). It is not possible for us to guarantee accuracy of data that other users log. We will be periodically reviewing data locations and potentially deleting data points we deem inappropriate. The app is multi-purpose and one purpose of it is outreach and education, so people simply downloading the app and thinking about debris meets one of our goals in educating people about the issues surrounding marine debris. As far as how we will be using Marine Debris Tracker and the data… Like other users, we will use it for simple visits to the beach (non-scientific data collection) as well as for specific cleanup events designed around scientific protocols. Note, the aggregated data in the database will not be able to characterize the world of marine debris based upon the data… e.g., the data will completely depend on where and when people collect it. So, taking all data points and making conclusions about it as representative would not be correct. However, Marine Debris Tracker is a very valuable tool for use by various scientific users to characterize their beach/area in whatever manner/protocol they so choose. E.g., a user might track debris on the same beach every week using a specific protocol. That data could be extracted from the database and used to make conclusions about that beach location(s). Our data collection will also include the use of the tool: the total number of points logged, total number of users, total locations the app is used, etc. We will not be making wide sweeping conclusions about marine debris throughout the world based upon aggregating the data. The bottom line is that Marine Debris Tracker provides a useful tool for a user to conduct casual or scientific marine debris data collection work, anywhere in the world.

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