COASST: Coastal Observation And Seabird Survey Team

COASST stands for Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team. COASST is a citizen science project that originated at the University of Washington, in partnership with the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
The program was established to identify the carcasses of marine birds found on beaches along the outer coast of Washington State.
Visit COASST's website.
Birds provide lots of useful information (even in death) about the state of the coastal environment. Weather, fisheries, coastal habitat change, and even feral cats and dogs can affect bird populations. By collaborating with citizens, natural resource management agencies and environmental organizations, COASST works to translate long-term monitoring into effective marine conservation solutions.
COASST recently extended its program to Alaska. RBCA, the Alaska SeaLife Center and the National Park Service have partnered to "adopt" stretches of Resurrection Bay beaches to survey for beached seabirds or bird carcasses.

Yellow Warbler found on Yalik Glacier beach. Many
Carcasses were found in late spring 2007. 

As part of this program, pairs of specially trained COASST volunteers conduct monthly or bi-monthly surveys of a stretch of coastline and record observations; not just of bird carcasses, but weather, presence of oil, woody debris and other beach conditions. When surveyors encounter a carcass, it is measured, identified, photographed, banded, and left in place.
The survey data collected is then sent to COASST, where it is used to help scientists create a baseline, or the ‘normal’ pattern of beached bird mortality. Armed with this information, they can detect unusual events such as increased mortality during an El Nino year.
If a human-caused event, like an oil spill, happens, COASST data can be used to determine the percent increase in mortality from background levels.
Volunteers are currently conducting regular COASST surveys on six Seward area beaches.
If you would like more information, or would like to participate in surveys, please e-mail

Wrack line on Yalik Glacier beach near Nuka Bay. These accumulations of
debris often contain the carcasses of birds.  So while it seems more effective
to search a beach at low tide, sometimes its better at high tide where
detritous - and birds - accumulates.