Tag Archives: Training

Welcome new Forks COASSTers!

This past Saturday Heidi and Liz ventured out to Forks, WA to train a new batch of COASSTers. These volunteers are on top of their game and ready to hit the beach in search of birds. Thanks to this group, five inactive COASST beaches needing surveyors have been filled!

After the training, Heidi joined several North Coast volunteers on surveys of two area beaches. It was a great weekend to be out on the Olympic Coast!

Heidi shows Caty and Janis how to identify just a wing.

Heidi shows Caty and Janis how to use the foot key.

Ellie and Babs work to key out birds from the teaching collection

Ellie and Babs work to key out birds from the teaching collection.


COASST welcomes new Alaskan volunteers!

Recently, Charlie Wright, COASST data verifier, headed to Alaska to conduct field work for the summer season (more on this in a future post). Before he boarded the research vessel, he spent a few days in Unalaska, AK out on the Aleutian Islands to lead a training for new COASST volunteers.

COASSTers try their hand at beached bird identification

COASSTers try their hand at beached bird identification

Six individuals (and one four-legged companion) attended the training. All were excited to learn about the program and beached bird identification. There was even time to complete a survey; no birds found. It was a great group and we are thrilled to be filling a few vacant beaches in the area as well as staring a new survey beach!


New volunteers take to the beach to practice their skills




HAZWOPER Field Training Day 3

For the third and final day of HAZWOPER training, we started the day with Dick Walker himself, on a trip down memory lane. On the conference room table he’s laid out an odd assortment of glass bottles sealed with tape, wrappers, matches, connectors and tanks.  To most people it looks like a trash heap, but Dick and team used to do a lot of these types of HAZMAT clean-ups, several a week, in fact. Methamphetamine Labs.

Liz looks on at the table Dick has set.

Turns out a host of highly flammable solvents, gases, acids, bases and oxidizers are used in the process of making meth, and this kept the Department of Ecology folks busy (too busy) from about 1980-2000. “In houses, trailers, hotel rooms, they were everywhere,” recalls Dick, “sometimes were were still processing a scene and they would come back.” With cold medication behind the counter in the early 2000s, the meth cleanup has all but stopped.

Which means spill response and cleanup can focus on places like our next stop, Fisherman’s Terminal. After several days of reported sheens, no sheens today. We check out two abandoned vessels towed from the north, purged of fuel, and moored at the Terminal, “it’s a lot easier to deal with these before they sink,” notes Dave.

Liz and Chad check out the Des Moines Marina. “That’s just scum,” Chad assures us, “a natural collection point.”

On the way down south to check out a previous cleanup site, we turn around to respond to a diesel spill in Elliott Bay Marina. When we arrive, oil-absorbent boom and pads have already been deployed and have picked up some product (which appears on the material as a pinkish stain). “It’s all about a quick response,” advises Dave. If and when the next large-scale oil spill occurs, we’re now prepared to mount that quick response.

COASSTing in Taholah

Last Friday, Julia and Jane stopped in at the Quinault Division of Natural Resources in Taholah, Washington. Julia, wearing “both her hats” as an Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Diversity at the College of the Environment and the Executive Director of COASST had a chance to hear from a host of Quinault Indian Nation resource managers including Joe Schumacker, Ed Johnstone, Daniel Ravenel, Heather May, Mark Mobbs, Larry Gilbertson and Janet Clark.

Non-bird finds: deer, cormorant egg, monofilament ball, toy boat.

Non-bird finds: deer, cormorant egg, monofilament ball, toy boat.

Julia and Daniel take in the views.

Julia and Daniel check out some (live) seabirds.

And we just had to head out the beach for a COASST survey with Daniel (a long-time COASST participant) and Nick Barry (tribal member and wildlife intern from Washington State University). With the sun out, we had ample time to take in the views, discover a “new foot type,” find a cormorant egg, and some debris items, all in a matter of hours. The only COASST find that day? Well, see if you can tell from the photo:

Julia and Nick examine the find of the day. Hint: a tubenose, common this time of year.

Julia and Nick examine the find of the day. Hint: a tubenose, common this time of year.

HAZWOPER Field Training Day 2

Back at it again, Liz and Jane take on Geographic Response Plans (GRPs) on day two of Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) on-the-job training with Laura and David, from Washington Department of Ecology’s Spill Response Team.

Where is the pipeline? Underground. These signs warn: no digging!

This time, we’re not heading out in the truck to investigate and incident/call/emergency, we’re laying the groundwork (paperwork, actually) in preparation for potential incident(s) involving waterways near the Olympic Pipeline. Owned by British Petroleum (BP), the Olympic Pipeline is the largest petroleum products pipeline in the Pacific Northwest which connects refineries in Skagit County to 23 terminals in Western Washington and Northern Oregon.

Our first stop – a wide stretch of the Sammamish. Wetlands toward the north, waterfowl. A boat is definitely required to deploy boom.

First stop: the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s boat launch on the west end of the Sammamish River. Laura and David consult the current GRP – which natural resources are in the area? boat needed? staging area large enough for several vehicles and trailers? what speed is the river flowing? is boom requested – the floating oil absorbent pads used to direct and contain oil – adequate? are there access considerations? could private property nearby be affected? All of these considerations (and more!) are detailed at each site.

David and Laura weigh in on the Sammamish River site.

Like COASST beaches, no site is the same – some have steep banks covered in blackberries, some are known native steelhead habitat (Liz spots some dragonfly larvae under a rock here, at May Creek), some are under freeways, some in the middle of neighborhoods, surrounded by private land. At the end of the day we get to thinking about how COASSTers might be able to contribute to marine GRPs in the State’s effort to document beaches, access points, and natural resources along the coast and greater Puget Sound. Stay tuned!

No stream or beach is ever the same (left to right: May Creek, Coal Creek x 2)

Oregon Trainings a Huge Success

A beautiful view from Bob and Betsy’s new beach (Nye South), looking north toward Gary’s beach (Nye North) and Renee’s (Yaquina Head).

Things have busy around the COASST office lately. In addition to the normal happenings, Liz and Jane have led four Oregon trainings for new COASST volunteers in the past month. With a car full of bird specimens, survey kits, and field guides these two have traveled to Nehalem, Newport, Florence, and Gold Beach to train a total of 55 volunteers. And what a great group of new volunteers!

Hana’s new beach, Harbor Vista County Park, outside Florence, Oregon.

This new cohort of Oregon volunteers have signed up to survey beaches all over the 340 miles of the Oregon coastline. As of now, we have filled all but one of the existing beaches in the Oregon North region and created numerous new survey sites. A huge thanks to all the Oregonians out there who helped advertise and spread the word for these events. We couldn’t have done it with out you! And a big welcome to our new volunteers.







HAZWOPER Field Training Day 1

This week, Liz and Jane are teaming up Horward Zorzi and Dick Walter’s Spill Response Team at the Department of Ecology – Northwest Regional Office for some on-the-job field experience to fulfill all requirements of their 40-hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) certification course.

No, it isn’t part of some new regulation to work with dead birds! This work is funded through a grant from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Ecology, Department of Natural Resources and the Puget Sound Partnership to increase community preparedness and response during large oil spills in northern Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the San Juan Islands. Lots of COASSTers (about 200!) survey and live near these beaches. These are “their” beaches, and come fall, COASSTers will have a chance to receive some extra training (known as the 8-hour HAZWOPER) to assist state and federal agencies in spill response and damage assessment.

But back to the fun stuff. Tuesday we barely arrived at the office before an anonymous call came in about an abandoned barrel on Vashon Island marked “xylene.” Grabbing the proper protective equipment (steel-toed boots required!), we jumped into the response truck with Chad and Dave.

The Department of Ecology Spill Response Team official vehicle: protecting our freshwater and marine waterways.

After a short ferry ride, we arrived at the scene. The barrel is on private property, not the county/city road, so after a quick call to the regional office and then the property owner, we got clearance to proceed. Time to fill out a Hazard Assessment Worksheet (HAW)! Chad and Dave’s gameplan: suit up, test vapors – is barrel intact? If yes, right barrel, test substance inside.

MultiRae sensor does not detect vapors – barrel and cap are intact.

After the barrel is upright, Dave goes in with a huge wrench and a pipette, and brings back a viscous tawny-colored liquid. Pull out the mobile chemistry lab! Dave tests for the presence of oil (it’s mostly oil), water (a little), Ph (about 7), and reactivity (almost none).

Dave and the mobile chemistry lab (right, in the orange toolbox-like container).

The final test? Flamability. “It’s my favorite,” says Dave, priming and adjusting the propane torch, and holding the glass test tube just the right the distance away.

Flammability? Well, sort of…

The verdict? Not xylene. Not even close. Too viscous, not very flammable, and some black smoke appeared after a good amount of heat. “It’s cooking oil,” says Dave, “call the owners, let them know where to dispose of this, and let’s get those paint pens to re-mark this barrel.” Time to call the regional office again and let them know we’re safe and on our way back. Case closed for Chad, Dave, Liz and Jane.

Seattle Training Brings 14 New Volunteers to COASST

Lisa, Courtney, and Shayla hard at work

This past Saturday, 14 energetic recruits joined Liz at Carkeek Park in Seattle for an on-the-beach COASST training on a beautiful (yet very chilly) spring day. After an introduction to the program, the team reviewed the COASST survey protocol and completed their first survey (no beached birds to report!). Beached bird identification followed, with plenty of hands on practice using the COASST teaching collection. These guys were experts at beached bird ID in no time – a great group of volunteers!

Five participants joined as part of the Puget Sound Corps (PSC) a division of the Washington Conservation Corps AmeriCorps program. PSC members are generally recent high school or college graduates, or veterans who sign up to spend one year working with various state agencies (in this case, Washington Department of Natural Resources) participating in ecological monitoring programs and restoration work. PSC COASSTers will adopt several beaches in Washington’s Aquatic Reserves (Cypress Island, Murray Island, Nisqually Reach) – a great partnership for building a baseline at new and existing Puget Sound beaches.

Some of COASST’s youngest volunteers measure a wing

Dion and Rachel work to identify a foot

Julia’s Travels – Arcata, California


A fabulous visit with CJ and Carol Ralph at their amazing house sandwiched in-between the salt marsh of upper Arcata Bay and the Lanphere dunes.  CJ is a consummate bird biologist who has studied Marbled Murrelets (MAMUs) for the Forest Service for many decades.  We went for a morning beachwalk – no beached birds – on Saturday morning.  As befits the season, totally foggy, but also fairly warm and no wind.  And also, no wrack – just a clean-swept beach.  Made me realize that the “search for birds on one leg (narrow beach) vs both (wide beach)” rule of surveying might be seasonally dependent: when there’s no wrack it’s pretty easy to see “bumps” across the entire width of the beach even if it is wide (this one was easily 75 meters).  Anybody out there have thoughts on that?


What we did find on the beach was fishing gear, namely a crab pot, and a set of buoys, freshly deposited.  Dragged the latter up above the dune grass line, as it was too heavy to haul off the beach.


Saturday afternoon was a great refresher session with Humboldt COASSTers – we had a spirited discussion of the COASST protocol as regards survey techniques.  Thick versus thin, patchy versus continuous, surveying one way versus out-and-back – these essentials of survey technique were debated over cookies from Los Bagels in Arcata (the corn-lime cookie, kind of a zippy snickerdoodle, was fantastic).  Gary and Lauren Lester mentioned how the Humboldters might have been mis-recording wrack and wood, backed up by Kimberley Pittman-Schulz who learned the COASST “ropes” from her partner Terry Schulz.  Bottomline?  COASST needs to put together a simple one-page “how to” sheet for everyone to take out on the beach.  Stay tuned for that!

Saturday night was the Redwood Region Audubon Society banquet – we had bird, of course.  What a fun, inspired, and knowledgeable group; and full of beached bird aficionados.  Cindy Moyer played chamber music; turns out music professors are also good COASSTers…  I sat next to an art history professor from Humboldt State named Julie Alderson who came to see whether science and art could come together.  Great thought.  I’m all in—it’s something I’ve done quite a bit of thinking about.

I “sang for my supper” with a banquet speech focused on a retrospective of my life in research.  Really fun to put together and deliver, and just a little scary to note that I’ve been at it for almost 30 years.  Everyone loved the photographs of Tatoosh Island, and especially the ones from the UW archives taken by Asahel Curtis of life in Neah Bay at the turn of the last century.  There is a wonderful photo of Neah Bay COASSTer Paul Parker’s dad examining a whaling harpoon.  It’s impressive to realize that this tradition lives on, passed down through centuries of family and community knowledge.

Of course, everyone was also struck by the COASST story and message: this IS the century of citizen science – make no mistake.  Things are just changing too fast to not get everyone involved in collecting rigorous data about the condition of our natural environment.  And COASST is at the forefront of that movement.  Based on the warm reception, I’m sure we’ll get a few more Humboldters (Arcatians and Eureka-ites?) signing up.

Sunday morning I joined marine mammalogist and Humboldt State Professor Dawn Goley for a great walk to the top of Trinidad Head.  We talked about the need to get coastal citizen science programs up and down the West Coast working together.  Sitting in the shelter of wind-pruned coastal scrub looking out at waves breaking over the outer rocks I was struck by what a hardy and fragile place our coastline is.  Resilient against waves, wind and weather; totally susceptible to climate impacts or oiling.  This is the reason we started COASST – to create the baseline that allows us to say what is normal here, what we need to protect.  And how great to work with Dawn to add marine mammals to the roster of things COASSTers and others will be able to collect information about.  Stay tuned for that as well!

Finished off my visit with a quick lunch at Seascape on the Trinidad Pier with Dawn and newly appointed California Sea Grant Marine Advisor Joe Tyburczy, his wife Karen and their new son Jonathan.  Joe is keen to meet COASSTers, and to work to expand rigorous citizen science in Humboldt County.  We’re there Joe!





Upcoming HAZWOPER Training

Are you interested in in helping respond to oiled wildlife during an oil spill? If so, check out this upcoming free HAZWOPER training offered by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. Full details can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/volunteer/events/.

Event Name: 8-Hour Hazwoper Class – Everett 2013
Event Description:

This class is intended for citizen volunteers who are interested in helping respond to oiled wildlife during an oil spill. This is not an animal handling or care class.  The primary focus of this class is your safety as a responder.  Personal safety training will be required to participate in spill response activities associated with wildlife.  This class will satisfy the personal safety training requirement. A valid 8-hour HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response 29 CFR 1910.120) certificate will allow you to work directly with oiled wildlife. This class will satisfy the annual HAZWOPER renewal requirement if you have previously completed a HAZWOPER course and need a refresher.

Event Start Date/Time: Sat, Mar 2, 2013 8:00 AM
Event End Date/Time: Sat, Mar 2, 2013 5:00 PM
Event Meeting
Everett Community College2000 Tower St, Everett View Location Map
Event Organizer: Andy Carlson
(p) 360-902-8125
Event Category:
Oiled Wildlife Response – Oil Spill