Casey’s Coastal Column | Citizen Science at the NEC

Casey Cruikshank


Since the beginning of the New Year, dedicated Coastal Programs participants have been working hard to collect valuable debris data, both on city streets and on beaches. One of our New Year’s resolutions is to work with our volunteers toward solution-based debris projects. I’m very pleased to report that the data collection has been going very well. In the past the NEC has collected data once a year, on Coastal Cleanup Day, but we are now collecting year-round. This will give us a better look at what we’re finding, where we’re finding it and how we can stop it at the source.  From January to mid-March the Adopt-A- Block program has removed a total of 82.5 pounds and the Adopt-A-Beach program removed a total of 643 pounds.


The database that we report to is used by citizen scientists around the world, thanks to the Ocean Conservancy. This database is available to the public; if you would like to check out debris data around the world visit As always, the NEC is on the lookout for new volunteers for our cleanups. If you’re a data lover looking for a volunteer opportunity, please let us know. We have data specific opportunities available that are accessible to all, including those who are less mobile or not interested in doing the trash-picking themselves. If this is of interest to you, please contact me at

The more we participate in data collection through the Ocean Conservancy the more we realize that, while their data cards are wonderfully adaptable to debris around the world, there are many things that are missing from the cards that are locally specific to our area.  One of the patterns that we see with every beach clean is waste from mariculture and fisheries industries. I have organized a Coastal Programs Advisory Committee with members from different areas of expertise to address local coastal issues surrounding debris. One of our first projects has been to create a catalog of local fisheries/mariculture debris. All of our Adopt-A-Beach participants will be trained to use this catalog to track the debris that they are finding so that it can be entered into a larger database that we are also creating. 

Aly Krystkowiak, member of the NorCalBeachClean board, stands in front of 13 SEPA Baskets and 10 trays that she single-handedly removed from Humboldt Bay in just three cleanups on the shore.

The goal is to track what we are finding so we will have numbers and statistics behind the work that we are doing. Once we have gathered our findings, we will work with the industries, Coastal Commission, California Fish and Wildlife and other involved groups to create necessary changes to stop the flow of waste into the Humboldt Bay and the ocean. From doing research and talking with local contacts in the industries, I have learned that there are underlying issues behind gear loss and, despite a lot of finger pointing, this gear is not lost on purpose. The gear is most often extremely expensive and losing gear comes with a negative association which the industry does not want. With this in mind, one of the main goals moving forward is to work closely and collaboratively with the industries to create and maintain positive relationships that will lead to environmentally beneficial change. 

If you are interested in participating in the NEC’s coastal programs or have any questions or pertinent information about the work that we are doing, please reach out to me at Thank you for following along with the NEC’s Coastal Programs Journey! There will be more updates in the next EcoNews edition.