Marine Debris Visual Identification Assessment
Date of Award
Program or Major
Master of Science
Estimates of marine debris are often based on beach surveys conducted by volunteers/citizen scientists. Few studies have documented the veracity of their observations and the factors that may affect their accuracy. Our laboratory-scale experiment identified potential sources of error associated with visual identification of marine debris (1-2 cm long) during shoreline surveys of sand beaches. Characteristics of the survey site (beach characteristics), observer (personal characteristics), and debris (color and size) may be important factors to consider when analyzing data from shoreline surveys. The results of this study show that the ability of individuals to accurately identify plastic fragments depends on the plastic and sand color, and density of shell fragments, as well as the time taken on the survey. Most suggestively, the high accuracy of blue plastic counts (95%) and the under-counting of white (50%) and clear plastic fragments (55%) confirmed the hypothesis that a significant amount of clear and white plastic fragments may be missed during shoreline surveys.
Angelini, Zachary Paul, "Marine Debris Visual Identification Assessment" (2017). Master's Theses and Capstones. 1115.