Photo of Shearwater flying low over the water

Coastal Observation Seabird Survey Team (COASST)

Seabird mortality survey

The Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team started as a citizen science seabird monitoring program founded by Dr. Julia Parrish, a University of Washington professor, to generate baseline data to help assess patterns of seabird mortality due to natural and human-induced events across both time and space. Since the first surveys in 1999, COASST 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 invented and refined the COASST system of carcass identification and protocol, as of 2021, COASST has grown to over 1,000 participants, creating the largest beached bird network in the world.

COASST ebeys landing sabines gull photo
Sabine’s Gull

Many Sound Water Stewards that are COASSTers started after Dr. Julia Parrish was the motivating Keynote Speaker at Sound Waters University in February 2006 in Coupeville.

In 2014, COASST added a marine debris data collection module and is now gathering a great deal of information about the debris found on beaches throughout the region.

Volunteers, typically in teams of two, survey their selected or assigned beach monthly, looking for dead seabirds OR marine debris (large, medium or small) and use COASST formatted datasheets to document then upload data to the COASST dataset. Monthly surveys are the backbone of this program. By building a baseline record of the amount of marine debris or number of beached birds washing up on local coastlines, we can see what is ‘normal’ and detect unusual events as they occur. Training is required; the training schedule is available on the COASST website.

COASST website & videos

Watch videos to see what COASST is finding, locate datasheets and forms, or learn more about COASST at their website.