The Clean Marine app debuted on the Android Market in September 2011 and will soon be available in the Amazon Appstore. The free app streamlines the process for boaters to report large debris in waterways.
“Reporting debris, like abandoned marine vessels or oil barrels, is absolutely critical,” says Murphy, the app developer and a lifetime resident of the S.C. coast. “When debris goes unreported, there is no way of knowing how much is out there and lawmakers are unlikely to allocate funding without knowing the extent of the problem. Just reporting the debris to the appropriate agency is an easy way for the average boater to help keep our waterways clean.”
During the 2011 boating season, just six reports of large abandoned marine items were collected. Murphy thinks that is because boaters were required to fill out a paper form with GPS coordinates and a picture attached – requirements that were difficult aboard a boat and beyond the average boater’s willingness to help. His app recreates the paper form onto something most people always have with them – their smartphone.
The Clean Marine app walks boaters through the reporting process including providing their name, address, type of debris and county. They can then take a picture to include and the app automatically collects their GPS coordinates. Within a minute, the boater has recorded all pertinent information and can click submit, whereby the information is transmitted to the appropriate authorities. If the boater is not currently connected to the internet when the debris is spotted, the data will be saved and sent when the phone is back online. In its first month on the Android Market, the app has been downloaded more than 100 times.
Murphy created this app as his thesis for the Master in Environmental Studies (MES) program. He was able to combine his hobby of programming with his passion for environmental issues in the thesis entitled, “Adoption of new Technology for the Improvement of a Citizen Science Project: Clean Marine Smartphone App.” Murphy sees mobile technology as the future for citizen science and a great tool for researchers everywhere in almost any discipline.
“Through my education I have frequently run into research situations where more data was needed than researchers could afford to collect because of time or money constraints. Frequently these projects are aided by the use of citizen science methods to involve the community and volunteers. But, many of these efforts still rely on outdated, unreliable, and inconvenient methods of data collection. Mobile applications can change that.”
Murphy anticipates earning his master’s degree in December 2011 and hopes to partner with other researchers to bring mobile applications to their projects and involve the community