Get Involved with Coast Watchers

Get Involved with Coast Watchers

Would you like to get involved with Coast Watchers? If you’re fascinated by the shoreline and want to understand how it works, then Coast Watchers needs you!

Coast Watchers is a new project using Citizen Science to collect and share interesting information about the Wyre coastline. It will help us to properly understand (and share) what we find. There’s a lot more background information here.

A bit of Background

Visit Fylde Coast and the engineering team at Wyre Council are working together, with the help of Rossall Beach Residents and Community Group. Lancaster University student Michael Lusty is developing a simple way for the public to collect information from which quite detailed (and useful) data can be obtained.

One of the ways that this is being done is by ‘structure from motion’. You take lots of photos and the clever whizzy bit makes them into a 3D view. This makes the people who take part ‘Citizen Scientists’.

The beauty of the 3D view is that it enables us to evaluate the landscape and how it changes over time. Including:

  • assessing topography (elevation at all points across a plane)
  • comparing volumetric differences – so you’d actually be able to identify the amount of sediment that is being shifted rather than just identifying that there is sediment shift. You can’t do this from 2D images alone – that would just be estimates
  • evaluating areas that might be obscured in a single photo alone

Getting Ready for you to Get Involved with Coast Watchers

A lot of background work has already been done. Rossall Beach Residents & Community Group took part in the first practical field work session in September 2018.

The group met at the Community Centre to learn about how the process and the theory works. They practised by taking photos of pebbles on the table in front of them.

Quick introduction to Coast Watchers
A crowd of interested people
Working out what to do
Photographing pebbles on the desk
Uploading our photos into the software
A 3D shape being rendered from the first photos
First prize to Les and Barbara for the best result!
This is called cheating 🙂

Then the group went out onto the beach at Cleveleys to take site photos.

Get involved with Coast Watchers
Get involved with Coast Watchers

Photos were sent by email to Michael. He crunched them through the software package to create a 3D version from ordinary camera phone images.

Watch this video clip to see how it works.

3D view of Cleveleys beach, created with ordinary photos for Coast Watchers

The video shows you what the software does to go from lots of single photos to the 3D view. In the clip you can see:

  • The images being uploaded into the software package
  • Lots of dots appearing as the software creates a ‘sparse cloud’.
  • The dots blend into each other in a ‘dense cloud’. You can see detail now and the sea wall. As the video zooms in you can see that it’s still made up of dots.
  • The next step is to join all the dots and create a mesh or wire frame. That’s lots of polygons (can you see them?), all joined together to give three dimensional form.
  • The final appearance of reality is to add textures and colours to create a lifelike image. (Which is what they do in animated films on TV).

It’s very clever. That simple photos that you take can be made into a sea wall with substance to it.

Would you like to have a go? All you need to take part is a camera – camera phones are absolutely fine – and internet access.

How to Get Involved with Coast Watchers

We’re looking for ways to make this process easy so that everyone can join in and understand the life of our beach.

We also want to measure changes in beach levels. You’ll be able to see changes most easily against a hard structure like a groyne or sea wall as scour and erosion or increasing beach levels.

Do you know of a spot on the Wyre coastline which frequently alters? Could you get involved with Coast Watchers and monitor that?

1. Take photos on site

Coast Watchers is looking for changing levels of sediment on the beach. In other words, how much the sand, shingle and pebbles are moving about with the tides and the weather.

The easiest way for us to measure this is to photograph the area where the beach meets a tidal area of the sea wall (or a groyne) and then take another batch of photos in the same place after a week of two of exposure to the tide. Hopefully this process will be able to detect a change in the two sets of data.

How to take photos

This short video clip shows you how this works in real life, a more detailed explanation is below. Note that you don’t need to wear a hi-viz – another event was taking place at the time of filming!

How to take photos for Coast Watchers
  • Stand a reasonable distance away from the area to be photographed. About 10m or 30′ is reasonable.
  • Take 3 photos of the wall in front of you. One a little to the right, one straight ahead and one a little to the left. Try to vary the angle that you point the camera so that there aren’t any gaps.
  • Take a pace to your left or right and repeat. Make sure that the bit that you photographed in your first set of photos is overlapped in the second set.

Diagram of how to take photos and get involved with Coast Watchers

  • When you’ve gone along the front of the area you’ve focused on, go around the sides and the back. Take photos in a circle going all around the area you have picked, taking photos.

Go around the area you have picked, taking photos. Get involved with Coast Watchers

  • Ideally you need to take quite a lot of photos, make it no less than 50. If you can, a lot (100, 200 or even more) is great!

2. Send your photos in

You’ve taken a lot of photos so they have to be sent using a file transfer system (not email, or Messenger, or Google docs).

We’re using WeTransfer. It’s free and it allows you to send big files to anybody, anywhere.

  • If you regularly use a computer, it’s easier to dump all of the photos off your phone into a folder on your computer and send them from there.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t use your computer very often. It’s easy to do from your phone too.

How to send photos and files using WeTransfer

(This is worth knowing, you can use it to send anything to family and friends, including video).

Go to

Put the email address of the person you’re sending to in the ‘To’ box, and your own email address in the ‘From’ box, plus a short message. Then click on the ‘Add files button’.

Send your Coast Watchers photos to

Go to WeTransfer

Locate the photos on your computer or phone, just like you would if you were sending anything anywhere. Select the ones which you want to send.

If you’re on a computer (below) click ‘Open’ to attach them. On a phone you’ll get the blue tick on the ones you’ve selected.

Next, click the ‘Transfer’ button at the bottom and sit and watch the wheel go round. Depending on the speed of your internet connection and how many photos you are sending, this may take a while. Go and make a brew!

3. Repeat!

The perfect scenario is for you to go back after a period of stormy weather or really calm weather and repeat your photos, in more or less the same place.

  • In stormy, windy conditions the sea agitates the sand and shingle, lifting it up and carrying it away. This is when beach levels typically drop.
  • In calm, still conditions, the sea is less agitated so the sand and silt that it carries can drop out of suspension – so beach levels build up.

If you know there’s bad weather ahead, why don’t you have a go and see what the results of your Citizen Science show? We want people to get involved with Coast Watchers on a regular basis.

Find out More

Have a look at the Visit Fylde Coast website homepage for more of the latest updates.

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