Citizen scientists help Ecology monitor the environment

From oceanographers monitoring conditions in Puget Sound to chemists checking product safety at Manchester Environmental Laboratory, we have a wide range of scientists at Ecology. We’re proud of their dedication and expertise. But sometimes we rely on the eyes (and cameras) of Washingtonians like you to help us keep an eye on conditions in our shared environment. Citizen-scientists have helped us in a number of ways over the years, and as current conditions often limit what we can do, we appreciate your participation more than ever.

Pictures of Puget Sound

The eyes that are normally “over Puget Sound” are currently grounded. That hasn’t stopped oceanographer Christopher Krembs from getting a good look at the algae blooms and jellyfish in the area. Citizen-scientists often send him photos. Chris said the photos of “anything that is visible but shouldn’t be there, such as blooms and microalgae” can be useful to him. He added that photos should be accompanied by a date and location. He also said it’s best when the photo includes something to help put the image into scale, such as a boat or a stretch of shoreline. Below are photos submitted by interested citizens around the Sound.

White boats parked in a marina surrounded by an orange noctiluca bloom

Citizen-scientist Robin Beck took this photo of a nocticlua bloom in June at the Des Moines Marina.

Under water view of an orange lion's mane jellyfish

Citizen-scientist Katie Remine took this photo of a lion’s mane jellyfish while kayaking in Peale Passage July 5.

A bright green algae bloom along a shoreline

Washington State Parks NW Region Steward Julie Morse submitted this photo of an unidentified algae bloom July 16 at Bowman Bay.


Many readers may already be familiar with Dany Burgess’s monthly “Critter of the Month” blog. What they may not be familiar with are the number of photos, videos and questions she receives from curious beachcombers hoping to identify the creatures they’ve found. She generally makes it a point to find out what’s in the photo and reply with answers as soon as she can. We recently featured the video below on our social media channels. It’s a video of a striped nudibranch filmed by a family of citizen scientists at a Lincoln Park beach.


While the folks at our BEACH program also receive photos from Washingtonians, they actively use citizen scientists to help gather water samples for testing. Check out this video to learn about the volunteers who help us monitor the beaches.

Other volunteer groups whose members help monitor beaches include:

  • WSU Beach Watchers in Snohomish County – six beaches
  • Surfrider in Whatcom County – two beaches.
  • Surfrider in Thurston County – one beach
  • We have volunteers that sample in Clallam County
  • Volunteers at Port Townsend Marine Science Center sample one beach in Jefferson County
  • The Stilliguamish Tribe – one beach in Snohomish County

For more more information about the science discussed in this article visit our BEACH page, our Puget Sound Science page or one of our Critter of the Month blogs. Or, if you have a question for one of our scientists, e-mail me at and I'll try and get your question to the right scientist.