What we do
The Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST) is a 17 year old rigorous citizen science project housed at the University of Washington. COASST trains coastal residents in their communities. Post-training, participants pledge to conduct monthly surveys on a beach that has special meaning to them. At present, three basic types of data are collected:
1. beachcast birds
2. marine debris
3. evidence of human use of the beach environment
The scientific essence of the COASST program is high quality data allowing creation of a robust baseline against which change can be measured, regardless of forcing (e.g., natural or anthropogenic). The educational essence of COASST is a place-based authentic science learning experience allowing all participants to gain both content knowledge and skill development. And the societal essence of COASST is development of individual and collective agency through use of the data in science, resource management and conservation.
In COASST, science is a team sport conducted simultaneously by citizens and scientists working together to collect, verify, analyze, and communicate high-quality data of direct relevance to scientific understanding of system processes and function, and natural resource management and decision-making.
Originally developed to provide a rigorous baseline against which the impacts of an oil spill could be assessed, COASST data have contributed to a myriad of natural history, ecology, conservation and resource management issues from harmful algal blooms to fishery bycatch to climate forcing to historic use of beached bird resources by native peoples.
Realizing the pressing needs of marine natural resource management and coastal conservation, and the twin benefits of increasing science literacy and an environmental stewardship ethic among citizens, COASST sees a future in which all coastal communities contribute directly to monitoring their local marine resources and ecosystem health through the establishment of a network of citizens engaging in science, where all collect rigorous and vital data. Through their collective efforts, and the translation of their individual data into baselines against which any impact—from human or natural origins—can be assessed, nearshore ecosystems worldwide will be actively known, managed, and protected.
COASST is a citizen science project of the University of Washington in partnership with state, tribal and federal agencies, environmental organizations, and community groups. COASST believes citizens of coastal communities are essential scientific partners in monitoring marine ecosystem health. By collaborating with citizens, natural resource management agencies and environmental organizations, COASST works to translate long-term monitoring into effective marine conservation solutions.