Adopt a Mile

Get involved! Learn more and help protect your Oregon coast — mile by mile.

Application Form         FAQS

How To File a Mile Report Online

Mile Report Form (PDF for printing)

Every mile of the Oregon coast is available for adoption.  Any number of people can adopt a mile—the more eyes on the shore, the better.  CoastWatch “mile adopters” monitor for a wide range of human impacts and natural phenomena.  The CoastWatch report form (available online after you sign up) contains a checklist of things to observe.  CoastWatchers are asked to carefully monitor their miles at least four times per year, once per quarter, although they are encouraged to check on their miles as often as possible.  

While many CoastWatchers bring expertise in various fields to the work, the program was designed to be accessible for everyone.  If you have a love for the coast, a fascination with its natural history, and a passion to protect it, you can play a valuable role.  By attending CoastWatch-sponsored training sessions, field trips and presentations, volunteers can educate themselves about the shoreline and threats to its environmental quality.  

You are welcome to adopt any mile of the coast.  If there is one stretch you visit frequently, feel free to adopt it regardless of whether others are actively monitoring the area.  However, while all miles of the Oregon coast have an adopter of record, not all miles are receiving consistent attention—if you are somewhat flexible as to location, you can help to fill in gaps in coverage.  Visit the Tour of the Miles page to see where the boundaries of CoastWatch Miles are located, and discover whether a mile has active adopters.

Apply to Adopt a Mile

An online form is available here to sign up as a CoastWatch mile adopter.  Or, download this Word file, which should show up in the Downloads folder on your computer; fill it in and email the completed form to [email protected].

Stewart Shultz with Shoreline Science workshop participants. Photo by Michael Coe.
Stewart Shultz with Shoreline Science workshop participants. Photo by Michael Coe.

How to Log-In and File a Mile Report

Click this link to find the easy to follow instructions to log-in for access to create a mile report. 

Frequently Asked Questions About CoastWatch

Are only unadopted miles available for adoption?
No, any number of people can adopt a mile, so all miles are always available for adoption.  Different people visit at different times, observe different things (especially transient events such as beached birds or animals, marine debris wash-ups, etc.), and bring different skills to bear, so the more the merrier on any mile.  If there is one stretch that you consider “your” beach, by all means adopt that mile.  If you have some flexibility, you can co-adopt a mile whose current adopters aren’t filing reports regularly.

Is every mile of the coast up for adoption?
Yes, we have divided up the entire Oregon coast into “mile” segments.  (However, when we launched the program 23 years ago we measured informally—we didn’t realize we would be using the system nearly a quarter-century later!—so our miles only number up to 340.)  Our goal is to monitor the entire coast, so we seek adopters for miles featuring all terrain types, from beaches to tidepools to headlands.  

What will I be committing to if I adopt a mile?
The basic CoastWatch commitment is simply four visits to the mile per year, one per quarter.  On these “official” visits you are asked to fill out a detailed report form, which you can submit online (preferred) or fill out by hand and mail.  To monitor a full mile carefully may take several hours.  Still, the timing of your visit is entirely flexible within the quarter; CoastWatch was designed to fit into the lives of busy people.  Of course, the more additional visits to the mile, the better.  CoastWatch offers various training and educational activities during the course of a year, and it is hoped that you will attend as many of these as you can—but this isn’t a firm commitment.  

What if I can’t visit the mile during every quarter?
It may not be possible to cover rugged or remote miles during some seasons (for instance, some headland miles have been adopted by sea kayakers, who can’t go out safely during winter months).  In such cases, we’re happy with whatever coverage we can get.  Some prospective CoastWatchers may not spend the entire year in Oregon, and thus may not be able to commit to quarterly reports.  If you can cover a mile consistently during part of the year, please feel invited to volunteer for the program—let us know your limitations and we’ll try to match you with a mile where reports are needed during those periods when you can visit the coast.

Do I need to have special expertise to adopt a mile?
No, CoastWatch is intended for everyone who loves the coast.  If you have relevant skills to offer—such as knowledge about natural history or land use planning or photography—those can be very helpful.  But most CoastWatch observations don’t take great expertise (anyone, for instance, can become aware of beach regulations and report if they are being violated), and over time, you can increase your knowledge by attending CoastWatch educational events or seeking out information on your own.  The idea underlying CoastWatch is to adopt a mile for the long-haul, get to know it well in all its seasons, and become a progressively more effective observer and steward for that stretch of shoreline.

What if I see something worth noting, but don’t cover a full mile?
The Dispatch form was designed for this purpose.  If you visit your mile but don’t walk the entire length, or make observations in all the categories on the report form, you can use a Dispatch to note something you observe, such as a beached marine mammal, an unusual number of beached birds, notable amounts or types of marine debris, or a violation of beach rules.  Indeed, the form can be used for anything you would like to share with CoastWatch and visitors to the website, on occasions when you don’t file a full report.  You can use the Dispatch for observations made anywhere, not just on your own adopted mile.

Can larger groups adopt miles?
While most CoastWatchers are individuals, couples, or families, mile adopters have included businesses, churches, sports clubs and schools—and we hope to have more.  If you belong to an organization that might be willing to adopt a mile, please contact us.  We do need to have one or more people serve as liaisons who will be our contacts for the group.

Is there a paper version of the report form I can use to take notes?
Yes, a paper version exists.  You can print it out from this document.  You can use it to take notes which you will the transfer to an online report.  If you aren't comfortable submitting a report online, you can submit a written report through the mail using this form.  The instructions you receive as a mile adopter include the address to use in mailing the form.

Should it be called "Citizen Science" or "Community Science"?
There is a growing worldwide movement to engage “ordinary people”—those without professional scientific credentials—in the gathering of scientific information.  This work is vitally important, as there aren’t remotely enough scientists to track all the changes unleashed in the natural world by global warming and other human impacts.

This public involvement in observing nature and recording data is generally known as “citizen science.” Oregon Shores and in particular CoastWatch have become deeply engaged in these types of volunteer projects, and this is the term we use.

Lately, some people and organizations have begun to use the term “community science,” out of concern that “citizen science” might not seem to include those who lack legal citizenship.  This intention is admirable, but we continue to use “citizen science” in most contexts for a number of reasons.

The “citizen” in citizen science was never intended to relate to whether a participant has certain documents.  Rather, we use it in the way that pioneering environmentalist Aldo Leopold meant when he spoke of human beings as “citizens of the biosphere.” 

Millions of people around the world are rallying to the banner of citizen science—it would be  mistake at this juncture to sow confusion by changing the commonly accepted name.  “Citizen science” remains the term of use almost everywhere in the world (at least the English-speaking world, although it is often used, untranslated, in other languages as well). 

The law that authorizes federal agencies to support public involvement in research uses the term “citizen science.” The term is found in the titles of scientific journals and the names of scientific societies. Most organizations around the country and the world that engage in these activities call it “citizen science,” as do most scientists and researchers.

But perhaps most important, “community science” already has a significant use as one particular type of citizen science—one in which a community drives the project. In community science, properly so called, an actual community (the residents of a place working together) may pose the research question, decide what type of data to collect, or use the results to inform some action. There is typically a professional scientist (or more) or scientific organization that collaborates with the community but does not control the research project. “Community science” in this sense plays an important role in environmental justice movements.  This use should not be obscured through a much vaguer use of the term out of extraneous social concern.

We use “community science” to refer to a collective effort such as a bioblitz, or when a members of a community organize to watch over and study a neighboring natural area such as a marine reserve or protected rocky habitat and inform the larger community about their findings.  But citizen science also includes the lone individual reporting a stranded marine mammal, or a family participating in the beached bird survey, or a team cataloguing and cleaning up marine debris.  It is the broader, more inclusive term.

By any name, this critically needed movement invites the participation of all people, everywhere.