Citizen science at Washington beaches

Volunteers, tribes, counties and our staff are hitting the beaches this summer. Not to swim and play — but to make sure it’s safe for you to use the water at Washington’s saltwater beaches. They'll be collecting water samples at 67 popular, high-use, high-risk beaches throughout the Puget Sound region and along the coast. 
Our partnerships with the Washington State Department of Health as well as county and local agencies and tribal nations are widely known and have allowed us to test for fecal bacteria for many years. However, the everyday beach-goer may not know the important role the public plays in keeping beaches safe. 

Volunteer networks are important to beach monitoring

Through volunteer organizations we're able to test more marine beaches for fecal bacteria than we would be able to otherwise. 
Laura Hermanson of Ecology trains Port Townsend Marine Science Center volunteers.

Laura Hermanson of Ecology trains Port Townsend Marine Science Center volunteers.

The Surfriders, WSU Beach Watchers, and Port Townsend Marine Science Center are some of the organizations that help us monitor beaches by coordinating volunteers. Volunteers attend annual training sessions the Ecology team conducts. Then, volunteers head to the beaches to conduct citizen science. They collect weekly water samples that are tested at labs across the Puget Sound region. Water sampling begins Memorial Day and concludes Labor Day.

Check out the beach app before you kayak, paddle board or get in.

When the sun comes out a lot of people head to the beach. At some point folks are likely to get in the water. It may be wading up to their ankles, launching a kayak, or getting on a paddle board, but people will get in. The last thing people want, is to go in water that has high levels of fecal matter. It's not just gross, it can make you sick. 

So, before you head out to paddle board, kayak, or just beach comb, check out our Ecology Beach App. You can see advisories and closures on the app, which is embedded above, and at You can easily bookmark and add an icon to your iPhone home screen. Instructions on how to add an icon to your phone are at the bottom of this blog post. 
We also share closures and advisories on TwitterFacebook, and our website. Follow us to get the latest beach closure news.

Community involvement in ecology

"Involving citizen science volunteers is vital to our monitoring program. Especially in smaller communities," said Julianne Ruffner, manager of Ecology's Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication, and Health program. "Ecology's citizen science volunteers collect data and potentially identify pollution issues in areas that may otherwise go unassessed."
According to Ruffner, some local health jurisdictions may not have the resources to monitor local beaches for fecal pollution. By including volunteers in monitoring water quality, we're better able to protect public health.

How to bookmark a website and add an icon to your iPhone screen:

  1. Tap the bookmark icon. When you're on the page you want to create a shortcut to, just tap on the bookmark icon. Ecology Beach App: 
  2. Tap on 'Add to home screen' When the bookmark options appear, tap on 'Add to home screen'.
  3. Change the shortcut name. ...
  4. See the shortcut appear.