Skip to main content

App of the Month: Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup: Dirty Dozen

With summer coming soon, I’m looking forward to the days when I can walk on a hot, sandy beach and dip my feet in cool water. But in reality, I am always on the lookout for loose garbage on the beach, the feeling of potentially stepping on anything sharp (a used, broken fork perhaps?) is not what I am fond of. I’m often shocked by the amount of litter accumulating on our lakeshores, and I can’t imagine how much more litter there is across the oceans. June’s App of the Month, The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup’s Dirty Dozen, helps us visualize that and identifies the top 12 litter found along Canadian shores.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is one of the largest direct-action conservation programs in Canada and is a partnership by Ocean Wise and the WWF-Canada. It has over 60,000 volunteers who are also citizen scientists, recording and collecting litter that are picked up from our shores. The program decided to release the documented numbers and location of the litter picked up, and what better way to present this information than through Esri Story Maps.

They used the Story Map Series template with a side accordion style to tell the story. The ranking of litter is clearly outlined on the left panel of the story map, while the item’s distribution across Canada is presented on a map on the right main panel.

When asked why they decided to use Esri Story Maps, Alannah Biega, a coordinator with the program, said, “We wanted to create something interactive that allows users to zoom in to their community and see how their individual cleanup activities have contributed to this national database. Not only does this map show the distribution of litter across our oceans, it also serves as an encouragement to our volunteers to see how their actions have made a positive impact across Canada.”

Cigarette butts are illustrated here using proportional symbols with a clear legend on the side.

The map might seem like a simple thematic map, but the use of proportional symbols intrigues me. Proportional symbology represents the size of a value on a map, and on this map, it represents the quantity of the trash item picked up along the shore, so the greater the circle, the bigger the quantity of the item. This map also makes effective use of simple styling of fonts to emphasize the message being delivered or highlight links to more information. Along with the descriptions are compelling pictures that help visualize the type of trash found on the shorelines.

While looking at the ranking, I would have never thought rope would be part of the Dirty Dozen. And through the map, I was able to see the correlation between the ropes being picked up by the volunteers and the coastal communities that heavily rely on fishing for their livelihood.

Distribution of rope found on the shores reflects the region of fishing industries in Canada

Alannah mentioned that being able to easily share this interactive Story Map created a positive experience for their audience, including the media. CBC News in Toronto and PEI covered the Dirty Dozen story with a link to the Story Map.

As well, the Story Map is an excellent tool for engaging volunteers. This feedback from a volunteer shows the power of Story Maps in not only illustrating a story but also in inspiring action. “Great website!  We will certainly use this for classroom groups that participate in shoreline cleanup – this is a great resource to introduce the project and get them thinking about the impacts of shoreline litter.”

Through the Story Map, volunteers can also see how their cleanup results compare with other communities in Canada.

Since the time their Story Map was selected for our App of the Month Contest, The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup has already released the 2018 Dirty Dozen. Check it out to see what item has taken the no. 1 spot.

The 2018 Dirty Dozen uses fun vector styling and firefly symbology to show waste collected in 2018.

Another Story Map Alannah and her team worked on is called “Strange(r) things found on Canadian shorelines”. It uses the Story Map Shortlist template. While it presents a different narrative, it is as informational as the Dirty Dozen Story Map. For the two Story Maps, Alannah and her team experimented with creating their own vector style map using the ArcGIS Vector Tile Style Editor, a tool that helps expand users’ creativity. It allows you to create basemaps according to your branding.

It’s remarkable how much litter The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup volunteers have picked up and recorded. For sure, there is still a lot of work to be done; much litter is still floating across bodies of water affecting many living species who call the ocean their home.

So next time you’re on the beach, remember to dispose of your trash properly. It’s a small effort that could make a big difference! Sign up to join or lead your very own cleanup.

Explore The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup’s Dirty Dozen and present your own story with Esri Story Maps.

About the Author

Mingsze Ho is a GIS Analyst for Esri Canada. Fascinated with displaying data in a spatial way, she focuses on generating story maps and other applications using Esri technology. She discovered her passion for maps when she started colouring and drawing maps in elementary school, and she was determined to become a cartographer. Mingsze loves how a map can illustrate the ways that certain features or phenomena affect human lives. While obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies, she realized the world had moved on to digital maps. She was heartbroken initially, until she discovered the power of GIS and how it can be used to leverage both art and data to create beautiful, interactive maps. In her free time, Mingsze continues to draw maps. She just really likes maps.

Profile Photo of Mingsze Ho