About Us


D. Feleay - Pigeon Guillemots

In 1997, we began a beach survey program using trained volunteers to survey beached marine birds and mammals monthly at selected sections of beaches throughout the Monterey Bay area. The program is a collaborative project between Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS), and other state and research institutions including the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), US Geological Survey (USGS), and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) with the specific goal of using deposition of beach cast carcasses as an index of the health of the sanctuary.

As of October 2017, we have more than 100 volunteers that survey beaches from Santa Cruz to LA county.  This program has been greatly successful, providing data for a number of scientific papers, contributing to the conservation of sanctuary resources, identifying and quantifying oiled wildlife, and a great many more accomplishments.

Project Objectives

  • Obtain baseline information on rates of deposition of beachcast birds and mammals: Trained volunteers identify and quantify all dead birds and mammals on sandy beaches along the central California coastline, between San Mateo/Santa Cruz County line and Santa Barbara. Beach surveys are conducted monthly at most locations and 2 times per month at selected beaches. These data provide a baseline for deposition rates along the CA coast during all seasons.
  • Assess causes of seabird and marine mammal mortality: Volunteers note the cause of death (e.g. presence of oil or entanglement in fishing line) for each organism found. When possible, fresh specimens are collected for post-mortem examination by a veterinary pathologist from CDFW.
  • Assess abundance of tar balls on beaches: The abundance of tar balls on beaches is determined and used as an indicator of amount of chronic or low-level oil deposition. In the case of large deposition of oil, volunteers are trained in the proper procedure for sample collection and storage. These samples will be used to determine the source of the oil (e.g. natural seeps or vessel traffic).
  • Assist resource management agencies in early detection of mortality events, both natural and anthropogenic: Beach COMBERS consist of scientists, resource managers, and citizens that have formed a well-connected group. This allows the quick accumulation of information about the resources of California into a centralized location, and the rapid dissemination of information to the management and enforcement agencies (e.g., MBNMS, CDFW, NMFS).
  • Build a network of interacting citizens, scientists, and resource managers: Frequent interactions in training sessions, enrichment events, and local meetings, provide a mechanism for scientists, citizens, and managers in the Beach COMBERS program to transfer information and awareness of resource management and policy.
  • Disseminate information to the public and educational institutions: Data from the Beach COMBERS program will be provided to the public and schools via web pages, a CeNCOOS data portal, scientific meetings, teacher education classes (MLML), and interactions with the public on the beaches.


BeachCOMBERS has been managed by the following principle investigators:

  • Jim Harvey
    Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, California State University
  • Scott Benson
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • Hannah Nevins
    Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, California State University; UC Davis
  • Erica Donnelly-Greenan*
    Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, California State University
  • Sonny Knaub*
    Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, California State University
  • Andrew DeVogelaere
    Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • Jackie Lindsey
    Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, California State University
  • Central BeachCOMBERS Coordinator: Mike Harris*, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Southern BeachCOMBERS Coordinators: Lena Chang, Robert McMorran, Jenny Marek, Colleen Grant*, Mary Martin*
    (all US Fish and Wildlife Service )*notes current coordinators

Our survey teams comprise devoted volunteers (current active volunteers as of June 2018):

  • North:  Jack Ames, Michelle Armstrong, Laurie Balcar, Nelson Balcar, Jessie Beck, Cynthia Begin, Scott Benson, Sara Broadbent, Patty Brown, Ben Bryant, Erica Burton, Kori Calubaquib, Nicolas Calubaquib, Ryan Carle, Marilyn Cruickshank, Sandra Degen, Andrew DeVogelaere, Lisa Emanuelson, Katie Excoffier, Stanley Dudek, Paul Fleischman, Karin Forney, Judy Garrison, Corinne Gibble, Don Glasco, Alison Goss, Kathy Halliburton, Nina Hertel, Linda Jordan, Sol Katzman, Pamela Kearby, Jim Kellogg, Emma Kelsey, Inger Marie Laursen, Bob Lea, Donna Lohrmann, Glenn McGovern, Sharon McGuire, Christine Miller, Beth Pardieck, Jennifer Parkin, Jenny Pederson, Stewart Perlman, Amanda Preece, Connie Rose, Glenn Seiler, Gayan Seneviratna, Tierney Thys, Colleen Young, Kelly Zilliacus (Newton)
  • Central: Gary Angelus, Duffy Burns, Sarah Chaney, David Dennis, David Feleay, Lois Feleay, Mark Garman, Susan Garman, Mike Harris, Heather Harris-Harris, Julie Howar, Greg Howar, Regena Orr, Denise Overman, Doug Overman, Christine Pattison, Dan Richards, Kathy Sharum, Carolyn Skinder, Jeff Sproul, Mike Stiles, PJ Webb
  • South: Barbara Barrett, Ron Barrett, Debra Barringer, Kendra Chan, Lena Chang, John Connor, John Davis, Andrea Dransfield, Lara Drizd, Francesca Ferrara, Robyn Gerstenslager, Annalise Goering, Leanne Goering, Jennifer Gold, Colleen Grant, Sara Green, Estelle Ichino, Karen Laing, Nathan Marcy, Jenny Marek, Mary Martin, Rita Napier-Newman, Kris Ohlenkamp, Jeff Phillips, Martin Ruane, Karen Sinclair, Rebecca Smith-Gridley, Kirk Waln, Raphaela Ware, Ken Wilson

Other funding and support comes from the following organizations: