Environmental Steward Certificate Program Always Open

Ed Joyce (right) and Jesse Jones (center) at a training session for the marine debris survey, a project which would help participants qualify for the Environmental Steward Certificate.\Photo by Patricia Jensen.

Oregon Shores and CoastWatch partners with Clatsop Community College (CCC) in sponsoring the Environmental Steward Certificate program, an innovative program which melds building volunteer skills with preparation for careers in conservation.  Participants in the program combine classes in relevant subjects at CCC with experience in CoastWatch citizen science projects.

It is possible to enter the program at any time and begin with CoastWatch volunteer work.  For the academic side, it is necessary to register for classes at the beginning of a semester.  Registration is now open for the next round of CCC classes, which begin July 5; the class relevant to the certificate program offered this summer is Oceanography.

The most recent person to gain the certificate is Robbie Burch, who completed the program early this year.  She received a scholarship, in the form of a stipend Oregon Shores arranged from the state’s Department of Land Conservation and Development. She assisted the Oregon Coastal Management Program with the 2020 update of their Shoreline Access Inventory, a list of all publicly owned sites that allow public access to a coastal shoreline. Over three months, Robbie visited and updated over 60 sites from Astoria to Seaside. The data she has collected will be reviewed with the entire 2020 Shoreline Access Inventory and eventually loaded into the Oregon Shore Explorer, an interactive map for finding ocean shore access that is co-sponsored and shared by the Oregon Coast Visitor’s Association.

Robbie Burch has a background in organic permaculture farming and herbalism as well as being an active homeschool teacher while traveling the West Coast with her kids for almost a decade. She has worked for almost 20 years as a photographer and batik artist in order to support her family. After a year at Clatsop to finish up a transfer degree, she is gearing her focus more toward geology and earth systems science. She is currently looking into more extensive geology programs in order to continue to learn more about this amazing earth and expand her love of mineralogy.

This typifies one group of participants in the program--students who are exploring careers in conservation or environmental science.  Another set of partipants consists of CoastWatchers, who deepening their knowledge of shoreline science and citizen science to sharpen their observational skills.

The program, which began in 2019, awarded its first certificate last June, to CoastWatcher Angela Whitlock, who also received a $500 scholarship from the program which she will use to take additional classes at CCC.  Immediately after gaining the certificate, Whitlock found employment as a rocky shore interpreter with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program in Cannon Beach.  "The Environmental Steward Certificate program has set me on a path that I'm thrilled to be on!" she says.

The second Environmental Steward Certificate scholarship recipient was Nicole Steegmans.  In this case, program director Ed Joyce, an Oregon Shores board member and CCC faculty member, lined up a $500 stipend from the state's Coastal Management Program to work on the King Tides Project (sponsored by Oregon Shores' CoastWatch program, along with the Coastal Management Program). Nicole updated the 2019-2020 winter season King Tides photos on Flickr and will also  helped to develop social media content for the upcoming 2020-2021 King Tides Project season along with other photo curation tasks.  She gained this relevant work experience while pursuing the other requirements to quality for the certificate.

The program is always open to new participants, whether they be current CoastWathers or CCC students seeking to expand their horizons.  Which academic classes are available will depend on the time of year when a new candidate starts into the program.  There are always CoastWatch citizen science projects, year-round, through which participants can meet their community volunteer commitments.  A scholarship and paid internships with various agencies are available.

Anyone interested in starting the program can register for the classes online with CCC, then contact Ed Joyce for information on fulfilling the volunteer and academic requirements.

The program has two key goals.  One is to serve current CoastWatchers by offering an opportunity to boost their shoreline monitoring skills while deepening their knowledge of shoreline science through classes and mentoring from environmental scientists at the college level.   The other is to enrich the experience of students at the college, who may become future conservation leaders and future CoastWatchers, by giving them a chance to explore the possibilities of a career in conservation.  Both CoastWatchers and students will receive an Oregon Shores Environmental Steward Certificate.  This will go on college transcripts and boost the employability of graduates.  For CoastWatchers, the certificate signifies their commitment to high-quality observations while monitoring and reporting on their mile.

The longer-term goal is to extend this program to colleges throughout the coastal region so as to make it available to all CoastWatchers and prospective CoastWatchers.

Oregon Shores and CCC will award the certificate to those completing 12 credit hours of environmentally focused classes, and completing 30 hours of participation in CoastWatch monitoring and citizen science projects, or other volunteer work with Oregon Shores.  The requirements could easily be met within a single academic year, although there is no time limit on completing the steps toward receiving the certificate.

For the technically inclined, classes appropriate for the certificate include some combination of Environmental Science, General and Marine Biology, Geology, Oceanography, and Marine Technology.  For those more interested in environmental administration, classes in Technical Writing and State & Local Government are recommended.

Successful completion of the program will better prepare the graduate to analyze and understand coastal ecosystems, prepare for environmental change, and participate in environmental management.  Participants will gain first-hand experience addressing real-world environmental issues and learning citizen science techniques while volunteering with CoastWatch and Oregon Shores.  CoastWatchers will gain skills and background knowledge that will contribute to more effective shoreline monitoring and improved citizen science results, and gain recognition of their efforts by receiving the certificate.  CCC students will better prepare themselves for careers in conservation and resource management—and, it is hoped, become active CoastWatchers.

The Environmental Steward Certificate program will help prepare students for careers in environmental protection and resource management.   According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for environmental scientists is good.  Experience gained will enhance job search efforts within the environmental community and provide a good beginning for those pursuing environmental studies at a four-year institution. 

CoastWatchers are urged to participate to elevate observation skills and thus the quality of CoastWatch reports and citizen science data gathering.

The program awards $500 scholarships to selected participants.  Oregon Shores members and others are invited to sponsor students with contributions of $750 (covering a scholarship and associated program costs).  The hope is to have scholarships available for any students or other participants who need them.

For additional information contact Ed Joyce, (503) 468-0995, edjoyce1590@gmail.com.