Educating citizens about their coastal environments: beach profiling in the Coastwatch project
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- Ferreira, M.A., Soares, L. & Andrade, F. J Coast Conserv (2012) 16: 567. doi:10.1007/s11852-012-0203-6
The Coastwatch (CW) project is aimed at monitoring the coastline with the involvement of volunteers. Between 2003 and 2007 a beach profiling method was informally proposed to CW participants in Portugal as an extra activity to include in the surveys. Beach profiling contributes to a better understanding of coastal processes by providing quantitative information on the spatial/temporal evolution of beaches, which is crucial for coastal management. The profiling method proposed to the CW project is based on the physical principle of communicating vessels, and only requires a simple and inexpensive homemade “profiler”. The simplicity of putting together and using the profiler, added to the arithmetic straightforwardness of data analysis, makes this method adequate for several kinds of users and for most levels of education. Eight workshops were held that included a classroom explanation of the method, the construction of a profiler, the actual profiling of a beach, and a final classroom session of data processing and graphing. About 140 participants received such training, and several among them independently undertook beach profiling. Surveyed participants found the workshop and the beach profiling method interesting and useful, and considered it a valuable tool for teaching and for management. External stakeholders (coastal managers) highlighted the importance of beach profiling data for management decisions and considered that this method produces robust data, even when carried out by volunteers. Further advantages of the application of the method, in the context of coastal management initiatives, for scientists, managers, and volunteers are discussed.