Have you ever been walking along the beach and found a mysterious animal?  It is not unusual to see stranded or washed-up marine animals and birds along any coastline.  Did you know what to do when you found the critter?  There are many people who want the information, if you know where to look. Various networks nationwide exist to report marine mammals and sea birds. In Oregon we have the Marine Mammal Institute and the COASST program, respectively (COASST n.d., Marine Mammal Institute n.d.).  But what if the critter isn’t a mammal or bird?  What if it is a fish, or a squid?  Do you know if anyone wants that information?

 

We do! However, we have been unable to find a network in Oregon or nationally to report other stranded marine animals, namely fish, squid, and sea turtles.  Now it’s true, networks do exist to report stranded sea turtles; The Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN) is a nationwide network begun in 1980 that includes federal, state, and private partners.  They document and record sea turtle stranding data from an eighteen state region from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico (NOAA 2012).  This network is not complete nationally though.  There are no STSSN coordinators for the west coast on the United States, even though turtles have been found stranded all along the coast, even as far north as Alaska (AP 1996). Because of their publicity, many people know sea turtles are endangered, but a lot of people are not necessarily aware of whom to call in a timely manner.

 

When a stranded fish, squid or turtle is found in Oregon, calls are frequently placed to the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, or various persons at the Hatfield Marine Science Center (Hanshumaker, 2011).  There is not a single publicized location or person to contact and the specifics of the information provided are often jumbled or confused.  That’s where this project comes in.   The purpose of my project is to create an opportunity for tourist or resident beachcombers to participate in an ongoing and necessary marine research project.  I have designed a protocol that enables “citizen scientists” to identify washed-up or stranded marine fish, squid, and sea turtles along the coast.  I have created a central location in which users can access information to identify species, know what information to record, and where to report it.  Although the Oregon Coast is the only area represented thus far, our coast is a proof-of-concept of the efficacy, usability and adaptability of the protocol.