Coastal monitoring put to test in Unalaska

Aleutian Life Forum hosted training weeks before seabird die-off


Contact: Reid Brewer, Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, 907-581-4589,, profile:
NR: SG-2006/NR241

Unalaska, Alaska—The second annual Aleutian Life Forum (ALF), held August 10–13, 2006, focused on building support for an Aleutian Islands community-based monitoring program to observe long-term changes in the region's marine ecosystem.

But it was a presentation on surveying dead and stranded seabirds by Julia Parrish, associate professor of biology at the University of Washington, that proved immediately useful. Just three weeks after the forum, thousands of dead short-tailed shearwaters washed onto Unalaska beaches. Aleutian Islanders who attended the presentation rallied to locate, tag, identify, and collect the seabirds, said Reid Brewer, Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agent based in Unalaska, and lead organizer of the Aleutian Life Forum.

"Volunteers hit the beaches with the Coastal Observation And Seabird Survey Team (COASST) protocol in hand and have been monitoring beaches every four days since," said Brewer. "There is a huge potential to integrate other protocols that were discussed at the forum as well."

Brewer said more than 100 people attended the forum. In all, 22 speakers from Alaska, Washington and California gave presentations on how to establish community-based marine monitoring programs. Representatives from six Aleutian Island communities were present.

"We took a good first step in understanding the issues and needs of starting a community-based coastal monitoring system," said Brewer. "By involving the community in a monitoring program, we hope to encourage environmental stewardship in the short term, while attempting to understand the long-term changes of our coastal ecosystems.