Michelle Chang

Citizen Science GIS: Collaborating with Communities to Investigate Marine Debris in Hopkins, Belize
Public Health & Integrative Biology
Spring 2018

Marine debris is a growing global problem that poses health and safety hazards for humans and animals. Efforts to manage marine debris include citizen science and beach clean ups. Furthermore, participatory GIS (PGIS) has been used extensively to identify potential sites with problems and to influence conservation management in terrestrial areas, however, it has rarely been used in marine environments. PGIS provides spatial data from the community that is often excluded in ecological studies. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to include local knowledge from community members along with field data to examine marine debris in Hopkins Village, Belize. I will investigate the distribution, abundance, and perceptions of marine debris using PGIS, quantitative beach surveys, and interviews in order to holistically understand the environmental impacts it has on this community. Through the mixed method approach and bottom-up framework, marginalized communities share their knowledge about problems scientists are trying to mitigate, such as marine debris. Collecting this data from communities is imperative to solving problems within these regions. Furthermore, mixed methods approach can be used to identify and solve local environmental issues in other developing countries.