Marine Debris Tracker - Interview with the developer of a fantastic app

Did you have any prior development or coding experience?

The app was originally developed in-house at the University of Georgia by Dr. Jenna Jambeck and Dr. Kyle Johnsen. We now work with an external developer, Deeds Creative, on the app.

What was the most challenging aspect of developing mobile app?

Debris Tracker is continually adapting to best meet the needs of non-profits, educators, research, and dedicated citizen scientists who want to collect data on plastic pollution in their communities. With over 4 million litter items tracked in over 90 countries around the world, we have a large reach and are working to provide a tool that is useful in many contexts, while allowing users to come together and contribute to an open database on debris. This is a challenging balancing act, especially in a new and evolving research field like plastic pollution – we want the app to be easy to use for citizen scientists but provide rigorous scientific data that can be used to inform solutions to plastic pollution.

The interviewee, Kathryn Youngblood, is a Research Engineer and Citizen Science Director at the University of Georgia. She has extensive experience collecting quantitative and qualitative data for analysis, oversees the Marine Debris Tracker citizen science app, and is currently helping to manage CAP assessments in Chile, Mexico, and the Philippines. She is a Team Member of Sea to Source Expedition: Ganges.

Name a few of your favorite apps and reason you love them.

iNaturalist is another exciting citizen science app that people around the world use to photograph and identify different species. The app strikes a great balance of a fun, educational user experience while contributing to a database that has been utilized in many research publications to assess species distribution.

How long have you been working on this app?

I’ve been involved with the app since 2014 as a public outreach coordinator and have been the citizen science director since 2019. As a scuba diver, I’m passionate about protecting our oceans, and as an environmental engineer, I believe that starts upstream, in our own communities. Debris Tracker is a powerful tool that harnesses technology so communities can come together and collect data to inform those solutions.

What need of the user did you have in mind when developing this app?

We developed the app to be easy enough to use for middle-grade students while providing scientifically rigorous data that is useful to researchers.

In what way do you think your app is better than similar apps on the market? Please describe in detail what innovation you think you bring and what you are proud of in your app.

We’ve found our niche in tracking litter through supporting local data collection. We offer customized lists that we can adapt to local needs – what groups are actually finding on the ground, specific research questions, or local languages or dialogues. We then integrate all that data, allowing disparate lists to talk to each other through an item mapping scheme. We’ve strived to balance customization to local contexts with open, shareable data.

What are your future plans and expected features of the coming new versions of this app?

We continue to adapt based on needs we hear from our organizations and volunteers. Our next big push is to build in even more ability to share and analyze data and use the app to tell stories about what is happening with plastic pollution in different areas.

Assuming new users of your app are reading this page. What do you want to ask them to do (contact you about X, Share the app, etc.)?

Check out debristracker.org, explore data logged by others, and download Debris Tracker for free on iOS or Android to track litter wherever you are, on the coast or in your own neighborhood. Together, we can build a global picture of plastic pollution that can help inform targeted, data-driven solutions.

Marine Debris Tracker

About App:

Debris Tracker is an open data citizen science movement, powered by Morgan Stanley.
Join us in creating a bigger picture of the plastic pollution crisis by using the app to report litter wherever you find it, from our oceans to your backyard.

Every day, dedicated educational, non-profit, and scientific organizations and passionate citizen scientists from all around the world use the Debris Tracker app to record GPS data on inland and marine debris.
To date, Debris Tracker users have contributed 2 million items to our open-data platform, hosted at the University of Georgia and accessible to researchers and curious citizens everywhere.
Together we can create a more comprehensive understanding of marine debris and plastic pollution by collecting and sharing data, generating scientific findings, informing policy, and inspiring upstream solutions.

See our website for more information on how to get started or to download data:
http://www.marinedebris.engr.uga.edu/.

Debris Tracker is a joint effort of the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative (SEA-MDI) out of the University of Georgia College of Engineering. Continued use of GPS in the background can dramatically decrease battery life.

Categories: Tools

Date: July 6, 2021

Developer: Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative

About developer: The interviewee, Kathryn Youngblood, is a Research Engineer and Citizen Scie ... Read more

Website: http://www.marinedebris.engr.uga.edu/

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