What do you get when you combine a selfie with a coastline?
Parks Canada climate change specialist Garrett Mombourquette and his colleague Kim Gamble on P.E.I. were tossing around the idea, and came up with the term "coastie."
Mombourquette pitched the idea in an innovation competition for Parks Canada employees, and the coastie initiative was born.
"The idea had been talked about for a while, knowing that people had smartphones and that we might be able to do something constructive with the photos that people were already taking of our beautiful beaches," Mombourquette said.
"Then it was just serendipitous. I proposed the idea internally. The University of Windsor simultaneously reached out to discuss the collaboration, and it was just —the stars aligned."
Starting this month, Canadians are being invited to share their photos from special cellphone cradles or stands set up at five national parks, including the Prince Edward Island National Park on the Island's North Shore.
"A coastie is simply a photograph of the coastline, and it's something that Parks Canada and the University of Windsor will be able to use to help us to monitor coastal change, and better understand the impacts of climate change," Mombourquette said.
"Citizen science means that visitors are the ones who are collecting the information."
Researchers at the University of Windsor are part of the coastie initiative, and will analyze the photos and use them to track changes to the coastlines, including erosion, storm surges and ice cover, vegetation, beach use and even rip currents.
"Not to nerd out too much, but what's cool about this initiative is that coasties will always be taken from the same location, and we will actually be able to survey that location, so that we can rectify that image and overlay it onto a map," Mombourquette said.
"Then track coastal change just the same way that we monitor coastal erosion, as part of our ecological integrity monitoring program. So this will complement nicely some of the work that we're already doing."
The other locations are Fundy National Park, Kouchibouguac National Park, Point Pelee National Park, and Sable Island National Park Reserve, with one to three coastie stands at each site.
"It will be exciting for me to see how as coasties these roll in, and as we collect some more data, how climate change differentially impacts these five different national parks," Mombourquette said.
'Fun thing to do at lunch'
Mombourquette said the coasties are already starting to appear on social media.
"It's very gratifying to see the level of interest that folks across the agency have to track climate change, and to do something actively to better understand the impacts that climate change will have on Parks Canada-administered sites," Mombourquette said.
"We're seeing a bit of uptake, definitely within the national park a lot of the staff are very excited and have begun to take some coasties," he said.
"It's already a fun thing to do at lunch."'
Parks Canada said they will be adding even more national parks in 2022.
"I proposed the coastie idea about a year ago. I certainly didn't expect that this could become something even bigger than Prince Edward Island National Park, and to have five sites on board in the first year is very exciting," Mombourquette said.
"I have to give all credit for the word to my colleague actually, Kim Gamble. She coined the term."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca
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