Waldport High School, scene of the Sharing the Coast Conference.  Photo by Sara Schreiber.

Waldport High School, scene of the Sharing the Coast Conference. Photo by Sara Schreiber.


CoastWatch’s Sharing the Coast Conference, our 9th annual feast of information about shoreline natural history and science, takes place this year in Waldport, and is coming up this weekend, March 3-5.  The public is invited, so please spread the word to anyone you know who might be interested.  However, the conference is designed to be of special value to those monitoring CoastWatch miles or participating in citizen science projects. Here’s the full conference schedule.

The event is once again co-sponsored by the Northwest Aquatic and Marine Educators (NAME), and is also of special interest to teachers or those who educate about the coastal environment in other settings.  We are dedicating the conference this year to the memory of Joy Tally, a NAME leader who collaborated with us in past years to organize the event and who passed away unexpectedly a few weeks ago. 

The keynote speech to open the conference on Friday evening (March 3) will be provided by marine mammalogist Leigh Torres, who will discuss the latest in research into the lives of gray whales and other “marine megafauna” inhabiting our coastal waters, and touch on ways in which citizens can help scientists monitor whale populations.  Her talk takes place at 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 6) at the Waldport Community Center, 265 Hemlock St.  The event is free and open to the public, whether or not attending the rest of the conference.

On Saturday (March 4) the conference moves to Waldport High School (3000 S. Crestline); registration begins at 8:30 a.m., with talks beginning at 9:00 a.m.  The theme of the conference this year is citizen science.  The talks provide background information pertinent to CoastWatch monitoring or to one or another of our citizen science projects.

Among Saturday’s speakers:

  • Bill Hanshumaker, Chief Scientist with Oregon Sea Grant, will open the day with a talk on “The Top Ten Organisms that CoastWatchers Find on the Beach.”  Dr. Hanshumaker, based at the Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC), has been documenting the creatures discovered washed up on the shore for 23 years.  He will describe sharks, squid, sea turtles and other species that are found by those who walk and monitor our beaches.
  • Jessica Miller, a research scientist with the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station at the HMSC, will update us on studies of debris from the Japanese tsunami still being found on our coast, and the animals, some of them potentially invasive, it has ferried across the Pacific.  CoastWatchers and other citizens have played a valuable role in assisting scientists by locating and identifying potential tsunami debris on the shoreline. 
  • Jenna Sullivan, a PhD student in the Marine Community Ecology Lab at Oregon State University, will discuss sea stars, sea star wasting syndrome and the current health of our rocky shore ecosystems.  Her talk will provide background for citizens who are helping scientists to observe sea star populations.  CoastWatchers keep watch over rocky shores on their miles, and some participate in our formal sea star survey.
  • Melissa Keyser, program coordinator for the Haystack Rock Awareness Program in Cannon Beach, will offer an overview of shoreline citizen science projects and provide a primer on how volunteers can participate.
  • Steve Rumrill, Shellfish Program Leader with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, will give the audience a verbal tour of Oregon’s bays and estuaries, describing their ecology and management, with particular attention to efforts to identify non-native invasives and block their spread.
  • Meg Reed, Coastal Shores Specialist with the state’s Coastal Management Program will describe her research into sea level rise, coastal erosion and future management challenges.  She will also explain how citizens can help to track the impacts of sea level rise through the King Tide Project, through which volunteers document the reach of the year’s highest tide.  Reed collaborates with CoastWatch to organize the Oregon branch of this international citizen science initiative.
  • Jim Rice, coordinator of the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network (based at the Marine Mammal Institute at the HMSC), will give an overview of the state’s marine mammal populations and explain how citizens can engage in tracking these populations through reporting stranded animals, alive or dead.  Noting and reporting stranded marine mammals is something that all CoastWatchers are asked to do.

We also tentatively plan a presentation on monitoring whales offshore. More information about the speakers may be found here.

Saturday’s events conclude with a party featuring food, drink, a raffle, a coastal trivia contest, and a short talk by Charlie Plybon of the Surfrider Foundation on citizen water quality monitoring.

On Sunday, March 5, the conference concludes with an all-day training session for prospective volunteers for the COASST (Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team) beached bird survey, in which CoastWatch participates, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Waldport campus of Oregon Coast Community College (3120 Crestline Dr.). The trainer will be Hillary Burgess, COASST’s science coordinator.  Sunday will also feature field trips to Alsea Bay (led by Steve Rumrill) and the outer shoreline (led by Fawn Custer, CoastWatch’s volunteer coordinator).

Suggested cost is $10 for Oregon Shores members, $15 for other CoastWatchers, and $25 for members of the public.  Those who join Oregon Shores when registering can take the discount on the conference fee.  However, we want to emphasize that we want to make this learning opportunity available to all; if the suggested cost is a barrier, pay whatever you can, but in any case feel welcome to attend.  Snacks and drinks will be provided; lunch is on your own.  Pre-register online at https://oregonshores.givezooks.com/events/sharing-the-coast-conference-2017.  It is also possible to register at the door.

 For more information, contact Fawn Custer, (541) 270-0027, fawn@oregonshores.org, or go to the Oregon Shores website, https://oregonshores.org/.