Partner Profile: Shaun walbridge/nceas—winter 2010

Late at night, hours past when most COASSTers have turned out the lights, Shaun Walbridge is working away. On a black screen, a flashing cursor moves up, down and through a slew of white letters—it’s computer code, an intricate language of commands and formulas that form the backbone of the COASST website.

Shaun Walbridge

Shaun Walbridge, the brains behind the COASST database and website. (S. Walbridge)

After graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a BS degree in Physical Geography, Shaun scored his job as the GIS Analyst for the Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). At NCEAS, ecologists from all over the world come together to “crunch” data and look for patterns. Working at the Center involves some pretty large data sets, but that’s about where the similarities with COASST end. On any given day, he might be connecting 15 different people in four time zones on a virtual workspace, querying a database of global climate fluctuation, or tweaking a model exploring how landscape plays a role in plant genetics.

In fact, that’s how Shaun met Julia, COASST’s Executive Director, who came to NCEAS on her sabbatical in 2002. Always in motion, no matter the project, Julia was quick to introduce Shaun to COASST. “I think some of the first words out of her mouth were something like how about we put these skills to work for citizen science?” And so began a myriad of changes and improvements to—find-a-beach map function, a completely new data entry system, updated beach stats by region and COASST top ten graphs.

“Probably the biggest challenge for me is keeping the broader community of COASST in mind; how should we display COASST results? How can we streamline data entry? how does the COASST site look on older computers?” As everyone knows, COASST volunteers aren’t shy about giving feedback. It’s Shaun who turns these comments into website reality. For volunteers that have been with COASST long enough to remember the old site, there’s no comparison.