Alaska CoastWalk

Kickoff to CoastWalk Success!

As the days have grown shorter, and the mornings crispy, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies has set out to tackle the trash of the beach.   The month of September kicked off our 30th annual CoastWalk beach clean-up season around Kachemak Bay. Every September and October the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies gather volunteers, teachers, students, organizations, and businesses to clean Kachemak Bay beaches.  For the past 29 years these dedicated volunteers have picked up everything off the beach from a discarded toothbrush to half a fiberglass kayak.  Over the past 29 years, volunteers have collected thousands of pieces of debris, and in the process saved many of our seabirds, marine mammals, and fish from the devastating effects of marine debris.  

The importance of marine debris clean-up has been advocated in recent years by environmental activism, many educational groups, and non-profit organizations. When non-biodegradable items such as plastic, foam, metal and glass fall into the ocean environment, the habitats and food sources of marine organisms are disrupted. Animals can be entangled and/or injured by larger debris items, while many animals mistake smaller debris items for food. Microscopic pieces of debris are filling up the ocean, outnumbering plankton and affecting normal photosynthetic activity. By cleaning up the bay and promoting a widespread attitude of conservation and sustainability among the community, we can work together to protect our marine neighbors and allow the oceans to flourish.  

On Saturday, September 6th, a group of energetic volunteers joined us with Bay Excursions Water Taxi to clean up McDonald's spit. The blue waters and beautiful skies welcomed us to the beach.   After talking to a few spit residents, we learned that some of them regularly pick up trash along the shore.  We were able to concentrate on picking up the small polyurethane foam pieces, micro plastic pieces, and bits of rope.  These smaller pieces of debris are particularly important to clean up because they resemble fish eggs, and are small enough for most seabirds, marine mammals, and fish to ingest.  We collected roughly fifty pounds of debris from the sandy shoreline, with the help of a friendly local dog who followed and entertained us around throughout the day. We are happy to say this beach is clean, thanks to our great volunteers! 

After three weeks of rain and small craft advisories, the morning of September 13th dawned sunny with the promise of clear skies throughout the day.   Red Mountain Marine Water Taxi donated a ride for us to conduct a cleanup around Aurora Lagoon.   Our group of volunteers and staff were able to fill the boat will large polyurethane blocks and bags of miscellaneous debris including clay pigeons.    Small pieces of polyurethane foam were the most common trash item found. We have noticed a trend of pieces like this being the most common item on most beach walks.  Volunteers were rewarded with a visit from a harbor seal, a sea otter, and a flock of migrating seabirds. 



We want to give a special thanks to all of the amazing volunteers that have participated thus far in the CoastWalk beach clean-ups. We could not do it without you! If you would like to schedule a cleanup for your group of business, would like to adopt your own beach zone, or are interested in other volunteer cleanup dates please stop by the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies headquarters at 708 Smokey Way Bay. You may also contact Loretta Brown at 235-6741 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Community-based Coastal Monitoring

The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies has taken a leSatellite image of Alaskaader role in designing a model for community involvement in the ecosystem-scale monitoring program related to restoration of species, habitats, and uses following the Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred in 1989. The Kachemak Bay CoastWalk is being developed as a model for citizen-based monitoring of nearshore habitats. More information on the oil spill restoration program is available at http://www.evostc.state.ak.us/.

In 2002-2004, we worked with a team of people representing the diversity of communities within the oil spill-affected area to develop a plan for community involvement and community-based monitoring..

During 2005-2007, we are partnering with the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve to integrate the historical Kachemak Bay CoastWalk dataset with a GIS that includes detailed mapping of the physical attributes of the Kachemak Bay shoreline. Coastal ecologist Tom Dean has also evaluated the scientific reliability generated by past and current CoastWalk data collection protocols. His recommendations for more rigorous and more frequent data collection will be aligned with the Exxon Valdez nearshore monitoring protocols.


A searchable database was developed to inventory existing community-based monitoring programs and projects in the oil spill-affected area and develop a resource of other community-based efforts that could serve as models for oil spill restoration activities. http://gemcitizendb.akcoastalstudies.org

Project Reports (available online with Project Search" function at http://www.evostc.state.ak.us):
Sigman, M.J.,M.E. Hogan. P. McCollum, P. Schwalenberg-Brown, N. Bird, H.P. Huntington, J.J. Spaeder, R.T. Cooney, and C. Celentano. 2004. A Plan for Community Involvement and Community-Based Monitoring Plan in a Gulf of Alaska Monitoring and Research Program. Final Report for Project #03057 5. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, Anchorage, AK.

J. Bodkin, T. Dean, and M.J. Sigman. 2006. Community Involvement Plan in Implementation of the GEM Nearshore Monitoring Plan: Site Selection, Standard Operating Procedures, and Data Management. Final Report for Project #050750. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, Anchorage, AK. (in review)

S. Baird and M.J. Sigman. 2005 and 2006. Connecting with Coastwalk: Linking Shoreline Mapping with Community-based Monitoring. Annual Reports for FY05 and FY06, Project #050743. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, Anchorage, AK.

Citizen Science Monitoring Programs

Community-based coastal monitoring is a key strategy to address our mission of fostering responsible interactions with our natural surroundings.  We are involved in several programs that share the goal of developing citizen scientists (of all ages) who will become engaged in stewardship of diverse and productive coastal habitats and watersheds.

Learn about our new Washed Ashore Homer project

KACHEMAK BAY COASTWALK. Now in its 38th year, we have sponsored the annual shoreline survey effort to document changes in the physical and biological environment of our local shorelines along with the impacts of human activities. Learn more>>

COMMUNITY-BASED COASTAL MONITORING. The Kachemak Bay CoastWalk program has been developed as a model for community involvement in the Exxon Valdez oil spill restoration program with a focus on the nearshore environment. Learn more>>

BEACH CLEAN-UPS. Removal of litter and marine debris have been an important stewardship activity during the annual CoastWalk. From 2006 through 2011, we participated in a NOAA grant-funded effort to expand our marine debris clean-up and prevention efforts to other Alaska communities. Since 2006, CACS has received funding off and on from the NOAA Community-based Marine Debris Clean-up and Prevention Program.  We have also had support from our local community businesses through sponsorships and donations. This support allows us to continue to conduct our annual CoastWalk, provide in-class presentations on issues relating to marine debris and stewardship to over 300 students annually, upgrade our coastal monitoring protocols, involve communities from around Alaska in marine debris clean-up programs, enhance our data collecting ability by adding an on-line data entry capability and much more.

Wildlife Surveys

Marine Invertebrate and Seaweed Communities. Alaska CoastWatch data collection protocols  include indicators of abundance and diversity of these important biological communities. Protocols will be developed to report unusual occurrences, observations of suspected marine invasives, and unusual mortality events.

Seabirds. Monitoring beachcast seabirds has provided valuable information on seabird mortality factors to University of Washington scientists studying these important indicators of ecosystem health. We are a local sponsor of a pilot project to expand a long-term, successful citizen-monitoring program from Washington and Oregon to Alaska. To learn more about the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, go to http://www.coasst.org.

Sea Otters. Kachemak Bay is a key area a mortality study on the northern sea otter. The Alaska CoastWatch program will include data collection protocols for dead sea otters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides training for volunteers to participate in collection of dead sea otters and their parts for the on-going mortality study.

Kachemak Crane Watch.  Sandhill Cranes are a favorite of both Homer locals and Visitors and The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies has teamed with Kachemak Crane Watch to make the tracking and recording of these charismatic birds easy for everyone.  There is now a web app which you can find here, as well as a mobile option available on android as Kachemak Crane Watch the App to report sightings.

Click here for additional resources for Alaska Coastal Communities.

Coastal Monitoring Resources for Alaskan Communities

Gulf of Alaska CoastWatchCACS Gulf of Alaska CoastWatch Activity Guide

Download Copy

This activity guide includes a tiered approach to beach exploration and coastal monitoring on rocky and sandy/muddy beaches in the Gulf of Alaska. The guide includes instructional activities to introduce concepts about intertidal diversity and scientific sampling considerations and field trip activities to explore the beach as an environment, conduct a CoastWalk to collect and share biological and human use observations, and to conduct more rigorous sampling of the diversity and abundance of marine invertebrates in intertidal communities. Background sections summarize the intertidal ecology of the region and provide a framework for monitoring change. The guide is designed as a curriculum guide for students in grades 4-12 but can also be used to develop training programs for citizen volunteers.

Coastal habitat mapsCoastal Habitat Maps

ShoreZone mapping has been completed for many areas of the Alaskan coastline by combining georeferenced, digital videography; expert mapping of physical and biological shoreline characteristics, and ground-truthing. The resulting GIS maps and associated database are an important baseline for detection of significant changes in the future. The information and "fly the coast" videography is accessible to the public at http://www.coastalaska.net as a resource for education and marine recreation.

To learn how to create and download maps, download our ShoreZone “how to” guide.

Access to Real-time Oceanographic and Weather Data.

Alaska Ocean Observing System http://www.aoos.org.

Detection and Reporting of Observations of Marine Invasives.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game: Invasive Species homepage.
http:// www.adfg.state.ak.us/special/invasive/invasive.php

Online Alaska Seaweed Atlas.

A new website provides information and images of 120 species of seaweeds at http://www.seaweedsofalaska.com. Sponsored by Cook Inlet RCAC (http://www.circac.org), the website displays images and information for seaweeds that occur on beaches surveyed during their coastal surveys. Users can view individual seaweed species organized within a searchable and browsable taxonomic structure. The home page of the website allows you to access seaweed information through a search for a specific phylum, genus or by looking at links to species organized under the categories for green, red, and brown algae. Descriptions of different habitat types, the various regions of the Gulf of Alaska (such as Kachemak Bay, Prince William Sound, and others), and maps that show the locations of the sites from where intertidal photos have been collected can also be seen on the new web pages.

Kachemak Bay Coastwalk

CACS has sponsored this unique community science and stewardship program since 1984. Citizen volunteers adopt a section of the Kachemak Bay shoreline and walk it annually, surveying changes, collecting data on marine life and human impacts, and cleaning up beach litter and marine debris. Download the program brochure here: CoastWalk Brochure.

2018 marks the 34th year of the CoastWalk program in Kachemak Bay. In 2017 526 volunteers picked up over 2,500 lbs of debris from the beaches of Kachemak Bay. Thanks in part to the Stewards Targeting Ocean Problems S.T.O.P. Marine Debris grant provided by NOAA we had 17 school groups participate in cleanups last year learning about marine debris and cleaning up our environment. Thank you to all of our volunteers.  


Individual CoastWalk Zones - Arial Photos

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Data Sheets

Data by Zone 1984 - 2011


Click on each report number to read full data, or read the summary.

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2009 All Zone Summary

2010 All Zone Summary

2011 All Zone Summary

2012 All Zone Summary 

2016 All Zone Summary

2017 All Zone Summary

Data Reports





2010 CoastWalk Annual Report




2009 CoastWalk Marine Debris Report - 25th Anniversary




2004 CoastWalk Report - 20th Anniversary

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