Tips for Being an Effective CoastWatch Volunteer
Locating your CoastWatch Mile. The Tour of Miles link of the website shows purple diamonds at the north and south boundary of each mile. If you can’t see both diamonds, click next mile north or south until you can. The link for Google maps leads to the center of that particular stretch of CoastWatch mile. Once you have this information, you can use landmarks to determine your approximate boundaries. Look for permanent reference marks like buildings or roads, or notable trees, bluffs, or rocks to help you.
Safety First! Know the Tides. Upload a tide app to your phone or carry a hard copy version. Check the tides before you walk your mile, and consider walking your mile at different tide heights if your beach allows it. If you can, take photos of your mile from above.
Access. Use traditional beach access points. Some CoastWatch miles can only be reached by walking on an adjacent beach, or at low tide. Please include in your report the state of the most public and most used access point. Has it been it improved, recently eroded, or otherwise changed? Look around you and see if other access points are being created and/or used by the public.
What to Bring. Aside from your phone or camera for taking pictures, a bag or bucket and gloves for debris are good to have. The majority of CoastWatchers report that they’ve removed debris from their mile on the day they walk to report. Binoculars are a good beach tool to have for viewing sea bird activity on the rocky islands, seeing shore birds more closely and counting wildlife and humans. A tally counter is helpful for wildlife and humans, cars and even nurdles! If you would like to bring along a paper copy of the CoastWatch Mile Report form to use as an aid for taking notes, you can download one here for printing at home, then when you are back home please use the instructions below to transfer your notes into the online version of the form.
Share. Talk to the people you meet and tell them what you are doing. Encourage them to be a volunteer, too. A conversation may lead to a future bird surveyor or a sea star monitor. It takes a community to keep an eye on our beaches and wildlife.
What to Observe. Sandy beaches, dunes and spits – how is the sand has moved; has there been dune grading; dunegrasses; off-road vehicle use. Rocky shores – harvest of tide pool plants and animals (like mussels). Dunes and cliffs – erosion, nesting sea birds, humans climbing. Wetlands – have they been filled or is their new algae or increased sedimentation. Coastal streams – what are the contents, how has the flow on the beach changed, is there increased trash runoff. Offshore rocks are all part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge– check these out with your binoculars and look for sea stars, nesting birds and humans intrusion – who shouldn’t be there unless they are scientists with a research permit. Researchers – you may see these at low tides in the tidepools with equipment.
What to Photograph. Most important, take photos of mammals, birds and sea life (alive and dead), cliff and dune erosion, and new developments of stairs and structures. Wrackline content, beach and marine debris left or picked up, and a north and a south view of your CoastWatch Mile make for good photo content. Images of fire pits, driftwood that has moved because of winter storms, illegal activity – all are helpful. It's useful to include landmark buildings, distinctive trees, dune vegetation, or rock outcroppings to help clarify where the photo was made. Try to limit your photos to twelve if possible! Choose photo locations that will allow comparisons to other photos past and future, so as to document change over time.