Environmental Steward Certificate Program Continues this Fall

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 volunteerism with preparation for careers in conservation.  Participants in the program combine classes in relevant subjects at CCC with experience in CoastWatch citizen science projects.

The program, which began during the past academic year, awarded its first certificate in 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.

There is now a second scholarship student, Nicole Steegmans.  In this case, program director Ed Joyce, an Oregon Shores board 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 is updating the 2019-2020 winter season King Tides photos on Flickr and will also be helping to develop social media content for the upcoming 2020-2021 King Tides season and handling other photo curation tasks.  She is gaining 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.

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.

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, an Oregon Shores board member who is also adjunct faculty (in geology and oceanography) at CCC:  (503) 468-0995, [email protected].