Julia K. Parrish, Executive Director

Julia started her academic career as a starving artist, only dimly aware of organismal biology and natural history. However, as art is more difficult than science (!), Julia found herself (while still an undergrad) immersed in marine biology as a visiting student at the Duke University Marine Lab. Since then, it's been science, and particularly animal behavior and field biology, all the way. After coming to the University of Washington in 1990, Julia discovered conservation in the way that most field biologists do, by watching the organisms and habitats she had been working on, and in, disappear and degrade as a consequence of human activities. At the same time, Julia met many people who were watching local resources and ecosystems change, and wondering what to do about it. These experiences led her to create a program for citizens with a strong component of marine conservation, a foundation of basic science, and a healthy dose of enthusiastic teaching and outreach—the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team—of which she is Executive Director. Her current research focuses on physical, biological, and anthropogenic factors affecting coastal seabird population health in the North Pacific, including a long-term study of the Common Murres of Tatoosh Island. In addition to her research, Julia serves as the Associate Director of the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, and as the Director of the Program on the Environment. 

Hillary Burgess, Science Coordinator

Hillary Burgess, COASST Marine Debris Project CoordinatorHillary joined COASST in December 2013. She has a background in plant ecology, having worked for the National Park Service and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and completed her Master’s degree here at UW. Coming from a long line of beach walkers, Hillary is thrilled to get her not-so-proverbial feet wet in the marine world through COASST. She’s been doing and studying citizen science for years, and enjoys participating in studies like Snapshot Serengeti in her free time. She can also often be found perusing orchids to add to her growing collection, caring for the ones she already has, or hiking one of Washington’s beautiful trails with her husband and dog, Noca.

Erika Frost, Participant Engagement Manager

Erika joined COASST in February 2014 and is responsible for engaging COASST participants and coordinating the amazing COASST intern crew. Erika studied Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota and enjoys connecting people to science. She has worked as an educator for zoos, aquariums, nature centers, and non-profits throughout the country and loves to share her passion for marine science with anyone who will listen! With a background in the arts, Erika loves creative projects and spends her free time playing piano, writing music, and collaborating on artistic projects with her husband. She also enjoys playing ball with her dog Arthur, hiking, camping, and SCUBA diving.

Charlie Wright, Data Verifier

Charlie Wright, COASST Data VerifierCharlie joined COASST as a Seabird Data Verifier in fall 2010. Birding has been Charlie’s passion from a very young age. He started leading local field trips for Rainier Audubon Society at the age of 11 and has never tired of sharing knowledge and learning along the way. Charlie happily spends most of his time with COASST going over each and every datasheet, crosschecking the data with photos sent in by our fantastic volunteers and deciding whether, indeed, that was a swollen heel or a white speculum. A student of bird identification, for years Charlie has enjoyed riding the juggernaut of citizen science, and he is an avid user of Charlie has also done field work conducting point counts and nest searching for Black-throated Blue Warblers at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. In summer 2010 he worked with a recently discovered taxon of Red Crossbill endemic to the South Hills and Albion Mountains of Idaho. Charlie's interest in birds has taken him on expeditions throughout Mexico and to South America, and he has experience identifying seabirds off the coasts of Washington, California, Peru, Mexico, and New England. He is a member of the Washington Bird Records Committee. In those fleeting moments when he finds himself not out in nature or doing bird-related work, Charlie enjoys watching baseball and eating recreationally.

Tim Jones, Postdoctoral Researcher

Tim joined COASST as a quantitative ecologist in 2015. Originally from the UK, Tim spent the first four years of his academic career with his head in the stars studying astrophysics. However, because of his interest in the natural world he decided to change course. After talking his way onto a master’s course in environmental biology he briefly studied migratory birds before embarking on a PhD in marine biology. The following five years were spent in New Zealand, where he at various times took samples of a dead humpback whale, studied the movement patterns of a lost leopard seal, helped rehabilitate broad-billed prions and waited for those beautiful Orca to reappear. However, upon realising none of this constituted a suitable course of study for a PhD he called upon his number skills and applied them to several aspects of marine ecology, particularly related to the study of marine reserves. After completing his PhD he worked for the Department of Conservation in New Zealand and as a contractor for several research institutes on aspects of data analysis. In his spare time Tim can be found biking, hiking or trying to solve the latest in a long-line of mathematical puzzles.

Katie Holmes, Participant Engagement Specialist

Katie joined COASST in February 2016. She studied Marine Biology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia and completed her Master’s degree in Museum Education at Tufts University. Katie has worked at various aquariums, museums, and non-profits. She loves to combine marine science with education and lifelong learning. Katie enjoys traveling and makes a point to visit the aquarium at each destination whenever possible. In her spare time, she tutors high school and college students in math and science. She also loves going to the theater, being a perpetual student, reading, and hanging out with her nieces and nephew and her feisty polydactyl cat, Polly.

Jennifer Lang, Research Associate

Jennifer Ma, COASST graduate studentJenn originally joined COASST in September 2013 as a graduate student and is now working with COASST as a research associate. Jenn is originally from Brooklyn, NY and has a degree in wildlife science from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) with an interest in conservation biology. Watching and learning about birds have always been a passion of hers and she pursues them avidly in the field and her studies. She spent several seasons as a field technician for various organizations, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and National Audubon Society, monitoring and surveying birds from warblers to puffins on the east coast and abroad in Australia. On her free time, Jenn birds every chance she gets and enjoys the little things in life.



Shawn Rowe, Principal Investigator

RoweShawn is currently working with COASST on social science research projects funded by West Coast Sea Grant and by the National Science Foundation. He is an Associate Professor at Oregon State University with a background in applied linguistics (that is, studying how humans learn languages) and developmental psychology in education. Most of his work is with museums looking at family group interactions and at how exhibitions are structured to support or undermine certain kinds of learning. His Sea Grant Extension position combines academic work on free-choice learning with practice-based research in the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center.

Heidi Ballard, Principal Investigator

BallardHeidi is currently working with COASST on social science research project funded by West Coast Sea Grant. She is an Associate Professor at UC Davis who is interested in environmental education that links communities, science, environmental action and learners of all ages. She is particularly interested in what and how people learn through public participation in scientific research (PPSR) as a form of informal science education to ultimately better conservation and natural resource management. Heidi is interested in COASST because it takes advantage of large spatial and temporal datasets, and is also completely intimate, localized, and hands-on in terms of training and working with volunteers, keeping people informed and excited, and making sure everyone knows the results of their efforts. 

Eric Fegraus, Principal Investigator

fegrausEric is working with COASST on new developments funded by the National Science Foundation. Eric is the Director of Information Systems for Conservation International’s Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network. TEAM provides near real time data that helps to inform conservation decisions regarding the effects of global climate change in 16 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Eric is interested in technologies that can advance our capacity to quantify and monitor Earth’s natural systems and understand their interaction with socioeconomic factors. He has previously worked as an environmental consultant, a software engineer, and a research scientist.

Luisa Massarani, Postdoctoral Researcher

Luisa is currently working with COASST on a social science research project funded by the National Science Foundation, as a visiting researcher of the Free-Choice Learning Lab at Oregon State University. Luisa has as background is in Communication, with a Masters in Science Information and a PhD in Biochemistry, in the area of Science Education, Management and Dissemination, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. She also completed a post-doctorate in Science and Technology Studies at the University College London. Luisa has worked for the Museum of Life and is the Latin American coordinator of SciDev.Net, the director of RedPOP, a Productivity Fellow at the Brazilian Council for Science and Technology, and a member of the scientific committee of the Public Communication for Science and Technology Network.



Cindy Char, Educational Consultant

Cynthia is an Independent Educational Consultant with over 35 years of experience in the design and evaluation of educational programs and products. She is working with COASST as a consultant and evaluator for research funded by the National Science Foundation. Prior to founding her consulting firm, Char Associates, Cindy was a Senior Researcher at the Education Development Center (EDC) and at Bank Street College’s Center for Children and Technology.  She has conducted numerous evaluations for science, mathematics and technology projects for K-12 schools, universities, and community-based organizations, such as museums, libraries and after-school clubs.  Cindy has served as a Principal Investigator and Senior Research Advisor on more than 22 NSF projects, and is currently advising COASST on their latest endeavors.




From L to R: Aaron, Olivia, Hannah, Tara, Ruth, Lauren, Alyssa, & Teo

Senior Interns

Lauren Kowalski - Lauren is majoring in Oceanography minoring in Geology. She started interning with COASST in March 2014. Once she graduates, she plans on joining the Coast Guard or the NOAA Corps. Lauren loves everything about the ocean and credits COASST for making her a bird nerd.

Tara Wilson - Tara joined COASST to combine her passions of technology, people, and data. She hopes to positively impact our environment through work with marine data analytics and visualization. When not in the office or the library, you can find her baking, watching football, traveling, reading, or spending time outside.

Undergraduate Intern Team

Abby Bratt
- Abby is a junior at UW majoring in Statistics. She initially joined COASST because of its unique approach to both data collection and community engagement and hopes to stick around for as long as she can before pursuing graduate studies in Quantitative Ecology. In her spare time she enjoys playing soccer and escaping to the mountains (or the beach, of course)!

Viviana Castillo - Viviana is an Oceanography major with a minor in Comparative History of Ideas and Marine Biology. She loves the outdoors and being close the ocean! She joined COASST because she is passionate about the environment and enjoys being a part of citizen science data collection.


Olivia Davis
- Olivia joined COASST because she loves marine biology. She enjoys hiking, birding and tide pooling, reading, and doing crafts. She is also a volunteer at the Seattle Aquarium and enjoys talking with people about marine animals and conservation.


Aaron Elefson
- Aaron just graduated from UW. He is interested in either going into environmental consulting, working at Google as a map editor, or another position that will enable him to gain experience with GIS software. In his free time he enjoys running, calisthenics, making videos, playing videogames, and writing stories.

Christie Fite
- Christie is a senior at the UW majoring in Environmental Studies. She is passionate about anything and everything to do with conservation, as well as how the environment interacts with social and economic aspects of life. She loves to spend her time hiking, biking, and exploring Seattle.

Kathleen Gill
- Kathleen is double majoring in aquatic and fishery sciences and environmental sciences and resource management. She is from Alaska and loves spending time outdoors enjoying nature. After graduating, she wants to travel the world and pursue field work.

Ruth Kazmerzak - Ruth is a senior in Aquatic & Fishery Science and Photomedia. She grew up on a farm in Iowa but loves the ocean! Ruth is slightly obsessed with the following: marine debris, cuttlefish, grebes, grebe mating dances, and art.


Piauwasdy - Alyssa grew up in San Francisco next to the ocean and has always loved everything about the ocean. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, scuba diving, and traveling. Alyssa lived in Cape Town, South Africa for nine months and hopes to work abroad doing field work after graduation.

Teodora Rautu
– Teo is a junior at UW majoring in Environmental Science & Resource Management. She was born in Romania and grew up in the Seattle area. She loves learning about birds and seeing how impactful citizen science volunteers can be in conservation efforts. During her free time, Teo enjoys hiking, camping, and traveling.

Madeline Savage
- Maddy is an oceanography major at UW. She likes to stay active outside and enjoys hiking and playing sports including volleyball, football, and soccer. She plans on pursuing research, and she absolutely loves quoting movies, making movies, and producing GIFs.

Hannah Spohn
- Hannah is from Portland, OR. She is excited to work with COASST because she wants to combine both working with people and science. She loves doing anything outside, especially camping!

Bethany Taylor
- Bethany is from Reno, Nevada and is majoring in environmental studies with a focus on resource management and environmental education. She enjoys hiking, reading, traveling, and baking. After graduating, she would like to go into environmental consulting or environmental education.

Edward Vlasenko
- Edward joined COASST because he wanted to do his part in maintaining the planet. In the future, he plans to pursue health care.  He enjoy working out and playing video games in his free time.