Aquarium Youth Volunteers Help With Marine Research

February 13, 2007

Field work is a crucial component to studying marine science

Oregon Coast Aquarium youth volunteers have been busy in the last year with projects that fulfill their roles as citizen scientists. In December, four youth volunteers traveled to Washington D.C. and presented to senior Bush administration officials a project titled Rockfish Bycatch; An In Depth Study, which tackled problems like misidentification and barotrauma in rockfish. Most recently, Aquarium youth volunteers have been getting outdoors and doing some real field work. “Having worked as a field biologist in my pre-aquarium life, I am always eager for any opportunity that gets the youth outside collecting data and acting as scientists,” said youth volunteer coordinator, Renee Rensmeyer.

The youth volunteers have been getting outside once a month providing assistance for organizations that include:

  • SOLV - picking up garbage
  • COASST (Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team) - surveying the beach for dead birds
  • CoastWatch - surveying the beach for changes
  • Surfrider Foundation - collecting water samples to test for bacteria

CoastWatch is a program that was developed to help citizens take a personal interest in protecting and monitoring the coasts. CoastWatch volunteers adopt mile-long segments along the coast where they walk it and record data based on what they observe. The Aquarium recently adopted 3 miles of coast line where the youth walk along the beaches, crossing creeks, and sometimes braving storms.

COASST is also involved in surveying a mile long stretch of beach, but they take it a step further. Surveyors search for bird carcasses along their section of beach and record their findings. “It might sound a bit odd at first to think of scouring the beaches for dead birds, but seabirds tell us a lot about the health of the coastal environment, even in death,” said Rensmeyer. There are many things which affect seabird populations such as oil spills, weather, fisheries, introduced predators and habitat changes.

Rensmeyer encourages young people who would like to join the youth volunteer team to apply for youth volunteer spring training, coming up in May. Enrollment is open now through April 1 for 13 to 17 year-olds for the four-session youth volunteer training course, which runs Saturdays, May 5, 12, 19 & 26 from 10 am – 4 pm. Applicants need to submit an application packet by April 1 and must attend every training session. Interested youths may pick up an application at the Aquarium, call 541-867-3474 x 5312 or email youth programs coordinator, Renee Rensmeyer at for more information.

As a youth volunteer, young people explore the world of marine science and share their knowledge as Aquarium interpreters. Youth volunteers spend 24 hours in training learning about marine science, marine animals, and conservation. Successful completion of training can earn young people three transferable college credits from the Oregon Coast Community College and high school credit in some high schools as well.