POGO project funded by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation
January 2021 – September 2022
The goal of this project is to acquire data on marine plastic debris distribution and abundance on the coasts of African countries, by training citizen scientists (secondary school students) and promoting knowledge transfer between local communities, researchers and members of the Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO).
Current POGO partners collaborating in sampling campaigns are from Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire and Cabo Verde. We are currently looking for further collaborations from other African countries, as well as from other members to participate in an inter-comparison of microplastics analysis.
Strategy and Proposed Activities
The project COLLECT aims to demonstrate the potential for acquisition of data by citizen scientists (secondary school students) on the distribution and abundance of coastal debris in African countries. Data on the distribution of coastal plastic debris (macro and microplastics) is currently extremely scarce in coastal environments in Africa, with the exception of South Africa. The project will further assess attitude and awareness shifts in participating students (volunteers) after citizen science interventions. This project will be complemented by the knowledge and infrastructure transfer enabled by the POGO member institutions.
We will develop a citizen science activity in collaboration with secondary schools, where students (15 – 18 years old) will apply standard operating procedures (SOPs) to acquire and sample macro (> 5mm) and microplastics (< 5mm) from sandy beaches, during wet and dry seasons. Prior to the activity, the POGO partners will provide training to all participants, students and teachers, that will include not only guidelines for field sampling, but also background information on plastic pollution. We will measure the impact of the citizen science intervention via a survey, to assess shifts in knowledge of the nature and purpose of scientific research and in attitude/awareness towards the environment.
Expected Products and Outcomes
Specific outputs of the project include:
- Validation and adaptation of plastic litter sampling standard operating procedures (SOPs) using citizen scientists in African countries;
- Production of datasets that are open and available for a variety of stakeholders;
- Analysis of preliminary information on plastic pollution sources for the targeted study area;
- Evaluation of potential shifts in attitude of participating students towards coastal plastic debris; and
- Academic publication in a peer reviewed journal of the results of this case study.
The results obtained in this project will contribute to establish baseline information on coastal plastic debris and reinforce the POGO institutions’ collaborative network. In this project, citizen science will be an enabler of open science, by allowing data collected to be freely available to public, academics and regulators. Results will contribute to the identification of hotspots of plastic coastal litter, useful to establish projects on remote sensing and automated techniques for the identification of plastic. We will further assess the impact of the citizen science intervention in environmental attitude/awareness of participant students