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DON EDWARDS-SF BAY NWR: Finding Innovation for the Smallest Problem: New Litter Clean-up Technique – Connecting New Technology to Old Litter Clean-ups for Volunteers
California-Nevada Offices , February 14, 2017
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Olivia Andrus weighs trash with a group of students that helped pick it up and log it into the Litterati app.
Olivia Andrus weighs trash with a group of students that helped pick it up and log it into the Litterati app. - Photo Credit: San Francisc Bay Wildlife Society Staff
The San Jose Conservation Corps picks up trash along the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay.
The San Jose Conservation Corps picks up trash along the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay. - Photo Credit: Olivia Andrus
A member of the San Jose Conservation Corps looks closely for small pieces of trash. This type of trash can be deadly to wildlife.
A member of the San Jose Conservation Corps looks closely for small pieces of trash. This type of trash can be deadly to wildlife. - Photo Credit: Olivia Andrus
Students pick up trash along the entrance road to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Environmental Education Center. Students were excited to document their findings with the Litterati app.
Students pick up trash along the entrance road to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Environmental Education Center. Students were excited to document their findings with the Litterati app. - Photo Credit: Olivia Andrus

By Olivia Andrus

 

Julie Kahrnoff, interpretive specialist, and Olivia Andrus, operations coordinator at the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society, have found a new way to make litter clean-ups educational and fun!

Their Pollution Project was a grant given to the Watershed Watchers program with the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society by the Santa Clara Valley Water District to utilize a new technique in the way litter clean-ups are conducted. The project consisted of three Ipads that used an app called LitteratiTM to collect information on the trash found at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Environmental Education Center, in Alviso California.

Simply snap a photo using the app, write a hashtag describing what the type of trash is, hit upload, and BAM you’ve just collect data for further analysis. The Pollution Project included 24 days of litter clean-ups with the collaboration of the San Jose Conservation Corp, volunteer groups, and school groups.

Before each clean-up, the groups went into the Environmental Education Center to learn about the affects microtrash and microplastics have on the environment. Microtrash was the focus of this clean-up because according Kahrnoff, “many studies have shown that microtrash cleanups are more critical due to the ability of animals to swallow the smaller particles versus the larger particles, which are easier to see and more likely to be cleaned up.”

After the volunteers learn about microtrash they are introduced to the Litterati app. They create their own Litterati account or used the account for the Pollution Project and were shown how it works. Every photo taken is upload to what is called a “Filter Page” and geotagged to the location that the trash is found.

The “Filter Page” tracks all the photos and calculates the amount of each specific trash type based on the hashtags placed on the photos. Then, they can see the types of trash found around the refuge, the location of each trash, the total number of photos taken, and a comparison to the United States photos for that day.

Andrus and Kahrnoff used this technique for the first time to analyze how much trash was found within the refuge to promote a cleaner watershed. During each clean-up, Andrus would also do some birding with the volunteers as well as taught them about the types of plants that were around the refuge.

According to Kahrnoff, “Litter clean-ups can be boring, but if you make it more relevant to your audience, add some fun, and educate along the way it becomes a blast!”

This grant will be completed in August 2017 with a creation of a mobile interpretative litter display to be taken to school groups around San Jose. Andrus and Kahrnoff, are continuing to collaborate with Jeff Kirschner, the founder of Litterati, to create an environmental education program for Litterati to use around the world!

This project is just one of the few ways the Watershed Watchers program is continuing to find new and innovative ways to protect the watersheds we know and love!

Olivia Andrus was the operations coordinator for the Watershed Watchers grant at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Fall 2016. She led the litter clean-ups and analyzed the data collected from the Pollutions Project in Alviso.


Contact Info: Genie Moore, 408-262-5513, Ext. 100, genie_moore@fws.gov
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