When You Find More Mammals Then Birds

Sitting around the campfire afterward, uploading our data, I’m always grateful to have the opportunity to be part of such a worthy project.

More Mammals

We’re quickly coming up on our three-year anniversary with COASST. Has it really been three years? After I completed my training and was pondering the map of Washingtons’ coastline, I wanted to use the survey as a means to get out to the most remote and infrequently visited survey beach. In that, I’ve been wildly successful. But we’ve found far more mammals in our survey than beach-casted birds. In fact, we’ve documented nearly a dozen marine mammals on our assigned beach.

A Glaucous-Winged Gull (Larus glaucescens) is our bird #302. Photo Credit: Steve Weileman

How Many Birds

Oh geez…when I think of the hundreds of miles and thousands of elevation climbed, versus the number of birds found I have to chuckle or perhaps cry. For all the effort put in our surveys, we’ve found a whopping two birds.

Yea. I’m told that even empty surveys are just as important as one where birds are found; it helps establish the baseline and pattern of mortality near our section of beach. I get it, but I’d still rather do a bit more science.

Still, the Outer Coast of Washington is like a drug, once your start it’s hard to start. I don’t find birds on every survey…and every survey isn’t always fun, some are downright miserable, especially when it’s baring above freezing with wind and rain making sure we’re soaked.

But I can say that it’s always an adventure, there’s always something new and awe-inspiring when we’re out there. Sitting around the campfire afterward, uploading our data, I’m always grateful to have the opportunity to be part of such a worthy project.

Wild and scenic rivers

wild and scenic rivers project a huge success

As a team, we more than tripled the amount of data to date. We’ve received 573 completed surveys from 91 rivers this year, compared to 183 surveys from 41 rivers in 2020.

We’re proud to have been a part of this effort! We’re working on articles and videos so stay tuned. 

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Follow the team’s latest news and social feeds here. You’ll also find links to articles on the latest developments regarding citizen-science and the conservation of our oceans. 

We also use this feed for updates from the field as we pursue our own science and the occasional short video clip.

And please, feel free to join in the conversation. We’d love to hear what you’re up to as well. 

Sitting around the campfire afterward, uploading our data, I’m always grateful to have the opportunity to be part of such a worthy project.

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Working to provide opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to make a difference as they play in the outdoors.
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Working to translate long-term monitoring into effective marine conservation solutions.
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Provide integrated research, communication, and education to coastal communities that lead to the responsible use of the nation’s oceans.

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COASST

Since its beginnings in 2000, COASST has steadily expanded from a nucleus of 5 beaches along the southern outer coast of Washington State to nearly 450 beaches spread across northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. From 12 stalwart participants who worked tirelessly to invent and refine the COASST system of carcass identification, COASST has grown to more than 1,000 participants, making them the largest beached bird network in the world.

And the COASST volunteers are good! COASST Beached Birds boasts a stunning 85% of birds identified correctly to species over the 183 species found to date – each carcass identification is independently verified.

In COASST, we “prove it and use it!” All COASST data are verified by experts. And that means that if you turn in the measurements, foot type, and photo evidence for what you think is a Red-footed Booby, we can prove that you were right about this vanishingly rare tropical bird in North Pacific.

Our ability to prove the high quality of our data makes COASST data immediately useful to scientists and natural resource managers, and we’re in the business of sharing our data. In fact, COASST data are used for an amazing array of science and resource management projects, including:

These are some examples of what our data is used for:

  • baseline monitoring for the introgression of avian influenza
  • documenting the impacts of harmful algal blooms
  • assessing the impacts of “The Blob” – the largest and most intense marine heatwave in the world
  • modeling the likelihood that native Americans used naturally occurring mass mortality events as regular sources of food
  • assessing bycatch events in the Salish Sea

If you’re interested in becoming part of the team you can find information on training events here.

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