Plastic bottle beside Canoe Lake Portsmouth

Become a citizen scientist and help categorise over 700 photos of plastic litter by the end of April for a Portsmouth project

  • 17 March 2022
  • 2 min read

Through our Mapping Portsmouth’s Plastics (MAPP) project, volunteers have gathered photos of plastic litter from across the city using the Jetsam app. Now, we’re calling for others to delve into the Zooniverse and be a researcher for a few hours by simply categorising photos. 

With these contributions, we’ll quickly build a clearer picture of what types or brands of plastics are most prevalent in the city. And with this knowledge, our Revolution Plastics team will be able to design effective ways to prevent such plastics from becoming litter.

What is Zooniverse?

The phrase ‘many hands make light work’ is brought to life on Zooniverse. It’s the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. And it's hosted right here at the University of Portsmouth.

Anyone, anywhere (with a device connected to the internet) can assist professional research via Zooniverse at any time. You don’t need any specialist knowledge or training.

Over a million volunteers come together on the platform to donate their time to classifying scientific data, ranging from images of distant planets to wildlife trail cameras or cancer cells. Learn more about Zooniverse and its amazing research discoveries.

Hundreds of projects are made possible where they otherwise wouldn’t be practical due to factors such as the time involved to process data individually or the vast area of space to be covered. 

How is it being used for Mapping Portsmouth Plastics? 

We have over 700 photos of plastics already gathered by the MAPP project, which we need to categorise by the end of April 2022. Zooniverse can help us to achieve this goal.

Via Zooniverse, volunteers will be asked to review the images of plastic litter that users have taken with the Jetsam app, helping to verify information such as

  • What type of plastic is shown (e.g. food packaging, plastic bottle, plastic bag)?
  • Where is it (e.g. pavement, road verge)?
  • Is any branding visible?

This data will tell us about the nature of the plastic pollution problem in Portsmouth. We will find out what settings accumulate plastic, what brands are most prevalent, and be able to compare this with the location of the photo to identify patterns. This will help us to develop evidence based and targeted interventions to tackle plastic pollution.

Swans swim beside plastic litter at Canoe Lake in Southsea, UK

With the help of volunteers, our researchers will be able to develop solutions to tackle plastic pollution in Portsmouth and Southsea

How can I help with plastics research? 

Taking part in the MAPP project on Zooniverse is easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Register for an account on Zooniverse
  2. Join the Mapping Portsmouth’s Plastics project
  3. Click ‘Get started’ and you’ll be shown a series of photos — simply follow the instructions and use the toolbar to draw a box around the item shown in the photo
  4. Click on the relevant category shown in the multiple choice list.

It’s as easy as that. You can review as many images as you like.