Coastal communities in Western Australia between Rockingham and Busselton in Western Australia have been involved in scientific and environmental research to monitor the changing coastline. CoastSnap, a University of New South Wales initiative, was introduced into WA by the Peron Naturaliste Partnership and the University of Western Australia. CoastSnap involves members of the community taking photos of beaches from a fixed smartphone camera stand. The photos are analysed to measure how the beach is changing and can help researchers and decision-makers better understand local coastal processes and how the beach may change during extreme conditions, or in response to the long-term effects of climate change.

CoastSnapWA also includes a globally unique aspect, the real-time monitoring of coastal community values. After uploading their CoastSnap photo there is an option to participate in a short survey regarding what is valued on the coast and how this may change over time, under different beach conditions. Coastal social values datasets over a long period are difficult to gather via approaches such as on-off community surveys and workshops. CoastSnap provided an opportunity to collect social information in addition to physical beach change.

The survey has provided some interesting results to date. Nature-based activities (such as wildlife watching) are prioritised over water-based, beach-based or foreshore-based activities; and mental/emotional health is the most important benefit gained from being on the coast. Key activities and the importance of facilities (such as toilets and BBQs) differ by beach and how often the respondent visits. Identifying these differences can guide regional coastal planning. In the longer-term the information gathered will enable coastal managers to monitor change in use and values resulting from infrastructure investments or physical coastal change (e.g., erosion) (report on the first 7 months of data collection is available from the PNP website).

Figure: Example of CoastSnap images linked to respondents’ emotional reaction to the beach, Shoalwater Bay

In addition to the valuable physical and social data that can be used to better plan and manage coastal areas, CoastSnapWA is also raising community awareness about coastal processes, hazards and risks along our coast.

CoastSnapWA was recently awarded a Special Commendation at the WA Coastal Awards for Excellence in the Science and Research category. The awards recognise the outstanding efforts and achievements of Western Australian’s in planning, managing and protecting our coast.

More information on CoastSnapWA is available on the PNP website and CoastSnapWA Facebook page.

Authors: Craig Perry (PNP) and Dr Carmen Elrick-Barr (UWA)

Feature Image: L-R Dr Michael Cuttler (UWA), Dr Carmen Elrick-Barr (UWA), Cr Mark Jones (PNP Chairperson and City of Rockingham Councillor), Craig Perry (PNP), Cr Caroline Knight (PNP Deputy Chairperson and City of Mandurah Deputy Mayor)