Monthly Archives: March 2013

Marine Debris Update

The marine debris photo database continues to grow. We’ve received about 100 images this week, bringing our total to 4072. Almost 50 COASST teams have sent in photos this month. Great work! If you haven’t yet contributed to the database there’s still time. The most common way to send photos to COASST is via email, but just like bird photos, you can send them in a variety of ways (thumb drive, cd, online album, etc.). We so appreciate everyone’s work on this project.  It’s amazing to see the wide variety of items out on our coastline.


Here is a sampling of images we’ve received recently:


A colorful buoy found in the San Juan Islands (Washington)

A Russian foot care product found in Oregon

A styrofoam and reed mat found on the north coast of Washington

A fish lure found along the Strait of Juan de Fuca
A flare found on the south coast of Washington




Seattle Training Brings 14 New Volunteers to COASST

Lisa, Courtney, and Shayla hard at work

This past Saturday, 14 energetic recruits joined Liz at Carkeek Park in Seattle for an on-the-beach COASST training on a beautiful (yet very chilly) spring day. After an introduction to the program, the team reviewed the COASST survey protocol and completed their first survey (no beached birds to report!). Beached bird identification followed, with plenty of hands on practice using the COASST teaching collection. These guys were experts at beached bird ID in no time – a great group of volunteers!

Five participants joined as part of the Puget Sound Corps (PSC) a division of the Washington Conservation Corps AmeriCorps program. PSC members are generally recent high school or college graduates, or veterans who sign up to spend one year working with various state agencies (in this case, Washington Department of Natural Resources) participating in ecological monitoring programs and restoration work. PSC COASSTers will adopt several beaches in Washington’s Aquatic Reserves (Cypress Island, Murray Island, Nisqually Reach) – a great partnership for building a baseline at new and existing Puget Sound beaches.

Some of COASST’s youngest volunteers measure a wing

Dion and Rachel work to identify a foot

Marine Debris Update

We are continuing to build our data base of marine debris images here at COASST. As of today we have collected 3,972 images thanks to all of your help! We are on our way to reaching our goal of over 5,000 photos so keep the photos coming. We are looking for images of any marine debris, large or small, common or unique. The photos can come from any beach, not just your COASST beach. Next time you head on to the beach remember to grab your camera and photo ruler. You never know what you might find!

Here are just a few of the things we’ve seen recently:

Plastic throat from a fish trap found in the Pribilof Islands in Alaska

Small mesh net found in Washington

Small mesh net found in Washington

A glass rolling pin float found in Oregon

A husky bowl found in the Puget Sound (we couldn’t resist sharing that one!)

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Thanks again for all your help with this project. We couldn’t do it without our wonderful volunteers!

Sue Namimami Teaches about Beach Stewardship

This photo sent to us by one of our COASST volunteers is of Sue Namimami a lovely lady made entirely of marine debris found in Ocean Shores, WA. She was made by Gini Schuster as part of the Ocean Shore’s Beachcomber fun fair. Currently she is on display at the Ocean Shores Interpretive Center. Sue reminds everyone to “Pack it out, even if you didn’t ‘pack it in’!”.

Japanese Tsunami Still Causing Challenges Two Years Later

On the wake of the two year anniversary of the Japanese tsunami, the catastrophic event continues to have detrimental effects on the marine and coastal environments. Two recently published news articles inform readers of the appearance of Japanese tsunami debris in Western Washington and Hawaiian coasts, as well as in the stomachs of marine wildlife.

Dock from Japan that has washed up on Oregon’s Agate Beach on June 5th, 2012. Photo courtesy of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

Due to the massive amount of debris that entered the ocean after the tsunami event, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that marine debris will continue to wash up on state shores for the next couple of years. In addition to accumulating in coastal environments and posing a threat to wildlife, the marine debris has raised the concern of introduction of invasive species to our region. When the tsunami initially hit Japan, four docks were washed out to sea. The docks were eventually spotted on the coasts of Agate Beach of Oregon, the island of Molokai of Hawaii, Olympic National Park, and a different region of Japan. The main issue with these docks washing up on foreign beaches is that the docks transfer invasive species. These invasive species threaten biological diversity and will negatively effect coastal environments. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) actively works to control the situation, disposing of organisms belonging to invasive species and cleaning the debris. WDFW is encouraging disposal of marine debris and has set up trash bins at Ocean Shores, Long Beach, and Grayland Beach State Parks. For more information on the article and proper protocol for disposing of marine debris, please follow the link here.

In another article, the impacts of debris on wildlife is the focus. Japanese tsunami debris has washed up on Hawaiian coastlines and plastics have been found in the stomachs of fish and seabirds. Plastic items have been recovered with bite marks on them, indicating that some marine organisms have mistaken the plastic for food. A recent study of 64 fish from an array of species has shown that 12% of the subjects analyzed have ingested plastic. Some species had higher percentages of plastic ingestion, with the lancetfish at an alarming 45%. In addition to harming aquatic life, presence of plastics in the ocean threatens humans as well. Some species of fish are prey to other species consumed by us. Ingested plastic could impart chemicals to the body of the fish, raising a potential health risk for those who eat the fish. The effects of plastics in the marine environments is of high concern. For more information, please watch the video and article provided by CNN here.

COASST Intern Field Trip to the Zoo

The following is by Clinton Stipek and intern at the COASST program:

Over this last weekend the COASST interns and Liz had the treat of going on a guided tour at the Woodland Park Zoo! The weather was great and our guide, Alastair, knew just about everything under the sun about the animals. Alastair is a COASST volunteer who also works as a docent at the Woodland Park Zoo. He offered up his Saturday to teach the COASST crew new facts about the animals (birds and non-birds alike) and give us insight into what it is like to work at the zoo.

Alastair and the interns

We had a great time and were able to tour just about every exhibit they had. My personal favorite was the Stellar’s Sea Eagle. I had no idea how big they truly were. With a wing span of 6-8 feet and weighing in at 15-20 pounds they are the largest and heaviest eagles. They are magnificent creatures and it was a real treat to see them in person. Some of the other cool things we saw were weavers making nests in the Savannah Aviary, Humboldt Penguins swimming around in their exhibit and brightly colored Toucans. Overall, it was a great day. We learned a lot and had a blast!

Great Blue Heron in the penguin enclosure

Brown Bears

Humboldt Penguin

Peregrine Falcon

Stellar Sea Eagle


Marine Debris Update

The marine debris photos just keep coming! We are now up to 3,611 images. As we mentioned last week, we’d love to break the 5,000 mark. We’ve seen a lot of interesting items big and small. A few of you have asked about why photographs should only feature one item (as opposed to a grouping of several). This is a great question. The photos for this project will be used to populate a database of items with information on their harm to wildlife. Ultimately, the database will be searchable, so we don’t want someone searching for color= green; size=less than 15cm; shape=linear, to then get a photo that also includes a huge blue circular object. For group shots of debris, the resolution per item is sometimes not so good, sometimes the whole item is not visible – a couple additional reasons to take photos individually for this project.

Here are a few of the images we have received lately:

Plastic spray applicator container found on the North Coast of Washington

Large plastic tub found in Oregon

Rubber belt found in California

Piece of dock found in Puget Sound


Alcid Mortality Events on the East Coast

Razorbill at bird cliff in Westfjords, Iceland. Photo taken/uploaded by Gsd97jks (Wikipedia user).

Check out some recent and intriguing alcid mortality events documented by SEANET, the Seabird Ecological Assessment Network. In case you didn’t know, SEANET is a citizen science project that conducts beached bird surveys on the east coast of the United States.

Since December of 2012, SEANET has documented an unusually high number of dead Razorbills, almost 30 as opposed to the usual 3-5 reported dead. The Razorbills, which are usually found in the Northeastern coasts have been recovered in areas as far as North Carolina and Florida.

Another strange incident observed by SEANET is the high Atlantic Puffin sightings, both dead and alive, in the Cape Cod area. Considering reports of Atlantic Puffins are rare, this high number of reports is being linked with the antecedent storm that occurred in the area. SEANET is currently watching for further effects of the storm on the puffins.

Finally, increased mortality of Dovekies in the Long Island area has been observed. SEANET has not documented abnormal mortality rates elsewhere.

For more information, please visit the SEANET blog here

Julia’s Travels – Arcata, California


A fabulous visit with CJ and Carol Ralph at their amazing house sandwiched in-between the salt marsh of upper Arcata Bay and the Lanphere dunes.  CJ is a consummate bird biologist who has studied Marbled Murrelets (MAMUs) for the Forest Service for many decades.  We went for a morning beachwalk – no beached birds – on Saturday morning.  As befits the season, totally foggy, but also fairly warm and no wind.  And also, no wrack – just a clean-swept beach.  Made me realize that the “search for birds on one leg (narrow beach) vs both (wide beach)” rule of surveying might be seasonally dependent: when there’s no wrack it’s pretty easy to see “bumps” across the entire width of the beach even if it is wide (this one was easily 75 meters).  Anybody out there have thoughts on that?


What we did find on the beach was fishing gear, namely a crab pot, and a set of buoys, freshly deposited.  Dragged the latter up above the dune grass line, as it was too heavy to haul off the beach.


Saturday afternoon was a great refresher session with Humboldt COASSTers – we had a spirited discussion of the COASST protocol as regards survey techniques.  Thick versus thin, patchy versus continuous, surveying one way versus out-and-back – these essentials of survey technique were debated over cookies from Los Bagels in Arcata (the corn-lime cookie, kind of a zippy snickerdoodle, was fantastic).  Gary and Lauren Lester mentioned how the Humboldters might have been mis-recording wrack and wood, backed up by Kimberley Pittman-Schulz who learned the COASST “ropes” from her partner Terry Schulz.  Bottomline?  COASST needs to put together a simple one-page “how to” sheet for everyone to take out on the beach.  Stay tuned for that!

Saturday night was the Redwood Region Audubon Society banquet – we had bird, of course.  What a fun, inspired, and knowledgeable group; and full of beached bird aficionados.  Cindy Moyer played chamber music; turns out music professors are also good COASSTers…  I sat next to an art history professor from Humboldt State named Julie Alderson who came to see whether science and art could come together.  Great thought.  I’m all in—it’s something I’ve done quite a bit of thinking about.

I “sang for my supper” with a banquet speech focused on a retrospective of my life in research.  Really fun to put together and deliver, and just a little scary to note that I’ve been at it for almost 30 years.  Everyone loved the photographs of Tatoosh Island, and especially the ones from the UW archives taken by Asahel Curtis of life in Neah Bay at the turn of the last century.  There is a wonderful photo of Neah Bay COASSTer Paul Parker’s dad examining a whaling harpoon.  It’s impressive to realize that this tradition lives on, passed down through centuries of family and community knowledge.

Of course, everyone was also struck by the COASST story and message: this IS the century of citizen science – make no mistake.  Things are just changing too fast to not get everyone involved in collecting rigorous data about the condition of our natural environment.  And COASST is at the forefront of that movement.  Based on the warm reception, I’m sure we’ll get a few more Humboldters (Arcatians and Eureka-ites?) signing up.

Sunday morning I joined marine mammalogist and Humboldt State Professor Dawn Goley for a great walk to the top of Trinidad Head.  We talked about the need to get coastal citizen science programs up and down the West Coast working together.  Sitting in the shelter of wind-pruned coastal scrub looking out at waves breaking over the outer rocks I was struck by what a hardy and fragile place our coastline is.  Resilient against waves, wind and weather; totally susceptible to climate impacts or oiling.  This is the reason we started COASST – to create the baseline that allows us to say what is normal here, what we need to protect.  And how great to work with Dawn to add marine mammals to the roster of things COASSTers and others will be able to collect information about.  Stay tuned for that as well!

Finished off my visit with a quick lunch at Seascape on the Trinidad Pier with Dawn and newly appointed California Sea Grant Marine Advisor Joe Tyburczy, his wife Karen and their new son Jonathan.  Joe is keen to meet COASSTers, and to work to expand rigorous citizen science in Humboldt County.  We’re there Joe!





February Marine Debris

Now that February has come to an end, it’s time for another marine debris update. As of today we have collected 3,513 photos! We would love to see that number reach 5,000 so please keep your photos coming. As a reminder, please include your photo ruler in each photo and only include one piece of debris per photo. These photos are very important for helping us classify the different attributes of marine debris found on the beach. With spring just around the corner and beached birds becoming a little less frequent, now is a great time to document debris. Here are just a few of the many photos we have received recently:

A tooth brush found in North Oregon

An electronic device found on the South Coast of Washington

A drift buoy found on the North Coast of Washington

A small refrigerator door found in Oregon