PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Lainey Randall and Addie Farmer know they live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and they share a mutual goal to keep the ocean around them as clean as possible.
To that end, the two discovered an app that belongs to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They set out in May to use the app on Portland’s East End Beach and encouraged family, friends and schoolmates to use it, too.
Their goal: collect 5,000 pieces of trash off the beach before it was washed into the ocean. Each piece would be photographed, then logged into the app. Their project coincided with World Environment Day on June 5.
The two handily exceeded their goal and recently were honored with two awards for their efforts.
When I met up with the two middle school students in the King Middle library, they shared with me what launched their project. “On our walk home," Addie Farmer explained," we see countless amounts of trash just everywhere.”
Addie and her close friend and classmate Lainey Randall learned in their science class at King Middle School what stormwater runoff can do. “About how the water can just bring the trash and it just goes right into the ocean.” Lainey added, “It can destroy marine habitat, they can mistake it for food and eat it. It can entangle them and cause them to drown or suffocate.”
Turning to their strengths — they are, after all, 7th graders with a born grasp of technology — they pulled out their smartphones and found an app. Lainey pulls out her own smartphone to demonstrate. “So this is the NOAA picture, so you press that one.”
NOAA's app is called the Marine Debris Tracker. Lainey and Addie set it up for Portland. It’s easy to use; once you’re in the app, scroll to the type of trash you’ve found anywhere in Portland, e.g. plastic, metal, glass, balloons, bottles, cigarette butts, then click the icon on the app. If you have a photo of it, you can upload that, too.
King Middle Science Teacher Jill Roland has been helping the 7th graders with their project. “So the girls chose the project, I threw out some ideas. They’re students interested beyond the classroom.”
For the past two years, Roland has been teaching her science students about the negative role trash plays on the environment and the importance of picking it up before it winds up in the ocean. “It takes an interest and a bit of action to make what adds up to a big difference. So my hope is people will be inspired. And will continue what the girls are asking them to do. “
Gulf of Maine Research Institute Chief Education Officer Leigh Peake has agreed to meet with Lainey and Addie to discuss the app. “Seems to me, getting fishermen to use the app would be really pretty cool.” Peake is prepping Lainey and Addie for a meeting with scientists where they will share the Marine Debris Tracker app.
“This couldn’t be a better example of what happens when kids take the ball and run with it. Beach debris isn’t something that GMRI works on, but we have a whole host of people who care deeply about the ocean and I think will be happy to get activated on work on behalf of the girls to spread the news.”
Which will be a big help. Their campaign so far is limited to wall ads at King Middle School and Facebook posts. They want to reach more people because they are confident what they’re doing is important.
Lainey smiles and says shyly, “I think we’re definitely like the future and so we need to be the ones making impacts and stuff right now.”
Addie nods and adds confidently, “If we don’t start now, when, you know? It’s like, no time like the present.”
The app, Marine Debris Tracker, exceeded expectations. Instead of collecting 5,000 pieces of debris, more than 8,000 pieces were collected, logged and kept out of the ocean.
Recently, Lainey Randall and Addie Farmer were honored twice for their efforts. They received the bronze award in the Bow Seat competition. They were also named the People’s Choice Award Winners in their efforts for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.