This project aims to provide the first comprehensive baseline characterization of sandy-beach and adjacent surf-zone ecosystems along the North Coast. This characterization will be based on biodiversity surveys of 12 sites inside and outside the newly established MPAs, including both long and pocket beaches. The beach surveys will focus on documenting abundance and diversity of large intertidal invertebrates, including sand crabs talitrid amphipods (sandhoppers) and birds that forage along beaches, including shorebirds, seabirds, and terrestrial birds. Researchers will also describe the abundance and composition of beach wrack (piles of seaweed that wash up on the beach), as well as observed human activities at the survey sites. The surf-zone surveys will focus on estimating abundances of key surf-zone fishes, including night smelt and surfperch, both of which are important to recreational and commercial beach fisheries, as well as for tribal traditional and subsistence activities. A limited number of fishes caught at the reference sites will be dissected to document the reproductive capacity (e.g., weight of their gonads, number and sizes of embryos) and diet (i.e., stomach contents). In the last year of the project, researchers will perform data analyses to examine critical linkages in beach and surf-zone ecosystem functioning and will evaluate the baseline ecological status of sandy-beach and surf-zone ecosystems. They also will identify candidate “indicator” species that could be used for long-term monitoring of sandy-beach and surf-zone ecosystem health. This project is a collaboration among academic scientists, North Coast tribes, commercial and recreational fishermen, and citizen scientists.



Researchers described their findings from this project in a technical report, released in July 2017. Click below to read the report.

FINAL REPORT: Baseline Characterization of Sandy Beach and Surf-zone Ecosystems



Data from this project are coming soon! You will be able access the data through the OceanSpaces map tool and data archive to learn more about each data package.

Project leaders

Karina Nielsen / Romberg Tiburon Center, San Francisco State University
Tim Mulligan / Dept. Fisheries Biology, Humboldt State University
Jenny Dugan / Marine Science Institute
Rosa Laucci / Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation (formerly known as Smith River Rancheria)
Sean Craig / Humboldt State University

Project collaborators

Megan Wood / Romberg Tiburon Center, San Francisco State University