Beach Watchers program:
- Has grown from 10 volunteers monitoring 5 marine
(intertidal zone) locations to 80 volunteers monitoring
30 marine sites and additional riverine sites since
its beginning in 1990.
- Records more than 10,000 hours of volunteer time
- Created a wealth of information on intertidal monitoring.
- Allowed volunteers to define methods that produce
valuable data and are not too in-depth for volunteers
- Collects a large dataset of biological organisms
and physical parameters recorded at intertidal sites
on an annual basis.
- Offers citizen volunteers an increased understanding
of marine environment biodiversity which is an indicator
of the habitat health.
- Demonstrates to citizens that marine beaches are
indicator zones of watershed health.
WSU Beach Watchers program began in 1990 to provide
public education related to watersheds of the marine
environment; it is not solely a monitoring program.
Don Meehan, Chair of WSU-Extension in Island County,
included a volunteer monitoring component to capture
the excitement and attention of citizens to marine ecosystem
quality and its relationship to watershed health. At
the program's inception, there was not much information
about intertidal monitoring. Jack Serwold, a local (Washington
state) scientist, was a key contact in developing the
program. His research experience in beach profiling
and biological assessment combined with his willingness
to teach others helped to get the program up and running.
Continued development of the program is credited to
a great amount of effort and leadership of key volunteers
within the program, since methods initially taught to
volunteers proved to be too involved. The volunteers
put in hundreds of hours working to define methods that
would produce valuable data and that were not too in-depth
for volunteers to follow.
Today, most intertidal zone monitoring sites (located
in Puget Sound) are assessed annually for biological
organisms and physical parameters. Some monitors record
presence/absence information about organisms at the
monitoring site, while others identify organisms (including
seaweeds and invertebrates) to the genus level. Volunteers
(70% of whom are senior citizens) are trained in the
classroom and in the field, including on-site mentoring
by program staff, scientists, and trained volunteers.
Each new volunteer receives about 25-30 hours of related
training and returning volunteers receive about 10 hours
of training each year. The Beach Watchers have a written
manual and follow quality assurance/quality control
procedures that they have developed. Advanced training
is also offered to program volunteers. Beach Watchers
volunteers are recognized with certificates of participation
and through special awards.
Beach Watchers staff interact and communicate with
their volunteers continuously in a wide variety of ways.
The staff visit volunteers' sites, speak with them on
the phone, hold quality assurance meetings, and meet
with volunteers in person on a regular basis. The staff
hold monthly meetings, which consist of a business meeting
followed by an educational program that is open to the
public. The program also has a newsletter, an email
list server, a website, and holds an annual meeting.
In short, the WSU Beach Watchers Program seems to be
doing it all, and the length of their existence shows
that it is a success. To learn more about the program,
visit their website
or visit the
website for archives of the Environmental Protection
Agency's Volunteer Monitor newsletter to see an
article about the program written in the Winter 2002
WSU Beach Watchers Program Coordinator: Don Meehan,
To view other highlighted programs, visit our highlighted
Tuesday, 27-Nov-2012 10:41:38 CST