COASST, a cooperative effort made up of volunteers, local environmental organizations, scientists and students at the University of Washington and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's (NOAA's) Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, uses "citizen science" to track the deposition of beached bird carcasses along the coast of the Pacific Northwest to help monitor our marine ecosystem health. In our six-hour COASST training, we learned how to identify beached birds through careful examination of just a bird foot or wing specimen using their Beached Bird Field Guide.
Nicknamed "Dead Birds for Dummies", it really is easy to identify the bird with this thorough reference guide. By following the easy-to-use keys in their book, we quickly identified that this was the wing of a large immature gull.
Now, with the training completed and the COASST materials in hand, I will perform monthly surveys on a two mile stretch of shore along Neptune Beach. Considered a priority spot by COASST since they have historical data associated with this beach, this stretch of beach is filled with houses with many of those homes on Tribal property. In reading the historical beach characteristics reports for my beach, it was reported that Tribal fishers are allowed to gillnet out of their back doors and the previous surveyors reported having rescued a loon that was found tangled in one of those nets. The Northern most portion of my beach ends abruptly at a boundary of riprap at the edge of the Cherry Point Oil Refinery property.
More photos from the COASST training, survey materials and a sneak peak at my survey beach.
We'll see what kind of interesting discoveries I make during my monthly beached-bird surveys.