Comparison of beachgrass species.

Comparison of beachgrass species including new hybrid.

The search continues for the new hybrid beachgrass that may be spreading on the Oregon coast. CoastWatch volunteers are helping researchers at Oregon State University map the range of the new hybrid, the offspring of two invasive beachgrass species.

To sharpen the observational skills of volunteers, an event is planned for this summer. At this training, you’ll learn how dunes are built, why beachgrasses matter, and how to identify common dune plants including the non-native beachgrasses and their hybrid. Dress for the weather and bring water and snacks. The hybrid is easiest to identify between late June and mid-July, so these trainings take place at the perfect time to enable volunteers to join the search in areas where it’s highly likely that undiscovered hybrid patches await.

On June 24, a field trip will begin at 9 a.m. in Gearhart. The training will last 90 minutes, which will include searching for new hybrid beachgrass patches. 

As a result of dune surveys led by researchers and community scientists, 117 patches of the hybrid have currently been found–much more than previously realized just a year ago! On iNaturalist alone, the hybrid beachgrass mapping project has nearly 1,000 observations, including 33 of the hybrid, from 599 different people. These hybrid beachgrass patches, which range in size from just a few square meters to patches that run along the foredune for nearly a kilometer, are located across a 155-mile stretch from Pacific City, Oregon to Ocean Grove, Washington.

Research led by Rebecca Mostow, a PhD candidate at Oregon State University, suggests that the hybrid may exceed its parents in traits important for dune-building, such as stem height and stem density, which may lead to greater sand capture and produce taller and perhaps wider dunes. This means that the hybrid has the potential to influence dune shape and coastal protection from extreme storms and sea level rise, and may affect snowy plover habitat and other aspects of beach and dune ecology. Many more hybrid beachgrass patches are likely to be found if searches continue in coastal dune areas, especially near Fort Stevens, Oregon and Long Beach, Washington.

The leader for the trainings is Danielle Whelan, another member of the team conducting this research. Danielle is carrying on Rebecca Mostow’s work.  Rebecca implemented the hybrid beachgrass mapping project on iNaturalist with CoastWatch beginning in 2020. Rebecca provided background on beachgrass and the efforts to trace the new hybrid in an information-packed webinar for CoastWatch, which is now available on the CoastWatch YouTube channel:

To join this training, and for more on the beachgrass survey and other citizen science projects, contact Jesse Jones, CoastWatch volunteer coordinator, (503) 989-7244,