CoastWatch Citizen Science Projects Need More Volunteers

 Beached bird training.  Photo courtesy of COASST.
Beached bird training. Photo courtesy of COASST.

CoastWatch has long sponsored several citizen science projects, such as the beached bird survey in which many mile adopters participate. Over the course of the past year, though, we have expanded the range of these projects. We now conduct seven citizen science projects. Through our "Community Engagement with Marine Reserves" project, we are developing a special project to focus citizen science surveys on the areas facing Oregon’s new marine reserves. 

We have seven projects up and running. Some are well established, while a couple are just getting started. Some involve joining a team for a formal survey according to scientific protocols; others are simply a matter of CoastWatchers (and other interested citizens) increasing their vigilance for certain types of phenomena they may observe and knowing where to report the information. 

To produce good information, while serving as a vehicle for public education about Oregon's marine resources, we'll need many more volunteers for all these projects. Even where we have solid teams already at work, we would like to expand the teams for greater long-term stability, and with many of these projects, we need more volunteers in more places in order to succeed in producing results. Volunteers could be CoastWatchers, other Oregon Shores members, or any interested community member. If you’ve been following this website or CoastWatch bulletins, you’ve already heard about these projects, but this is a reminder, along with a plea for fresh energy and involvement.  

The citizen science projects include: 

  • The beached bird survey, in which CoastWatch partners with COASST (Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, based at the University of Washington). This involves monthly surveys, using a formal protocol that produces genuine scientific data.
  • Marine debris monitoring, using a protocol developed by NOAA. This project also involves consistent monthly surveys and produces scientifically useful data. See this background paper for more information.
  • The sea star wasting syndrome survey, another project that utilizes a formal protocol (developed by PISCO, the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans) and produces scientific data. Go here for more details.
  • Marine mammal stranding, in cooperation with Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network. This isn't a formal survey, but we actively train and encourage all CoastWatch mile adopters and other volunteers to report all stranded animals, alive or dead, and provide a form on our website that goes directly to the stranding network. This work produces data points for the stranding network.
  • "Beached marine critters" survey, using a protocol that provides an online means of recording observations of stranded sharks, squid, sea turtles and two species of fish. As with the marine mammal stranding network, this doesn't involve a systematic survey, but if enough volunteers know what to look for and file reports regularly, we will produce data points of use to scientists and resource agencies.
  • Invasive species: At present, this primarily involves species carried on tsunami debris, training volunteers in what to look for, how to handle it, and how to report it to scientists at the HMSC. Our goal is to expand training to include other types of invasives that can be observed on the shoreline, such as algae observed either in situ or in the driftline.
  • King Tide photography project, through which volunteers photograph the year's highest tides, both to demonstrate current conditions and to anticipate what will become ordinary tide levels with sea level rise. The year's project is currently underway; see elsewhere on this page for more information or go here.

CoastWatch will provide training for these various citizen science surveys on a continuing basis. To volunteer or for more information, contact Fawn Custer, CoastWatch’s volunteer coordinator, (541) 270-0027, [email protected].

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