Walking beaches, volunteers amass data on dead seabirds

Murres die off in record numbers during 2016, a phenomenon continued to be studied by researchers. Photo by NWS.
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OCEAN SHORES, Wash. (AP) - A long-running citizen monitoring program at the University of Washington is tracking dead seabirds as an indicator of the health of the coastal environment.

Hundreds of volunteers comb stretches of beach from Mendocino, California, to Kotzebue, Alaska, each month looking for carcasses that have washed ashore. The citizen scientists are often the first to see when unusual numbers of birds have died.

For the past four years, scientists have tracked unusual die-offs of marine birds from California to the Arctic Circle.

KTUU reported on this issue in February following a particularly unusual die-off season in 2016, which left at least 30,000 dead sea birds washed up on the shoreline.

Since 1998, the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team has recorded about 76,000 dead birds and 239 unique species.

The data is used to track seasonal, short-term and long-term changes in seabirds, revealing patterns about where and when certain species die.