Debris from last year's Japan tsunami is still making its way across the Pacific, drifting toward the California coast, and researchers are looking for "citizen scientists" to help track and catalog it. And yes, there's an app for that.
It's called "Coastbuster," and it enables smartphone users to report potential remnants from the March, 2011 tsunami, as they arrive.
"And then those data are used to either get the resources to clean it up or identify things like invasive species, so they can be addressed immediately," says Kate Moran of Ocean Networks Canada, a research consortium that she runs out of British Columbia's University of Victoria.
Spotting debris on the beach is one thing. Knowing what to look for is another. Moran is counting on habitual walkers, joggers and beachcombers to spot unusual items. "People who normally walk the beaches kind of know what's there and what's new," Moran told me during a recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. "I have confidence in our citizen scientists to kind of do a good job," she told me, punctuating the thought with a chuckle.
In case "kind of" isn't sufficient, Moran says a team of experts will sift through the uploads and sort out likely tsunami debris from random flotsam.