What is Coast Watchers?

What is Coast Watchers?

What is Coast Watchers? It’s a new project to collect and share interesting information about the Wyre coastline, and how it changes. It’s a partnership between us here at Visit Fylde Coast and Wyre Council’s engineering team.

We all like to know about the weather (good and bad!), the storms, the tides, the moon and levels of sand on the beach. We’re interested in the animals which come and go and the rubbish that gets left behind. In fact some of us like to know about everything that makes up the marine environment.

What is Coast Watchers?

1. A record of our coastline

It’s a pictorial record of our coastline in date order, and how it’s affected by the weather. Have a look at the timeline here

Look at the Coast Watchers photo timeline
Look at the Coast Watchers photo timeline

Please also upload photos of any unusual things that you see on any of the Fylde Coast beaches. You might notice that your particular beach has built up a lot more than usual. Maybe you’re out during an exceptionally high tide. Or perhaps you’ve seen a deluge of a particular kind of litter. Along with the location points there are categories for erosion/deposition, freak weather (good as well as bad!) and unusual finds.

A photo says a thousand words

Say, for example, that over a few days people were to post photos of storms, shifting beaches and a flood of plastic seaside buckets. Individually these things might not seem significant, but together that sequence of photos records a visual story about the weather conditions. It will also show us how far the sea carries things.

Don’t worry about what you’re posting. We’d much rather you post photos that are a bit off track, rather than miss out on something useful! There’s no such thing as a ‘wrong’ photo, just submit what you’ve got and if there’s a problem we’ll let you know.

2. Created by you!

It’s somewhere for everyone to upload their beach and coastal photos, to create this pictorial record of the weather and how it affects our shore. Upload your photos from any of the Fylde Coast beaches.

All kinds of photos are welcome – stormy seas, howling winds, whopping great big sandbanks, unusual sunsets and unusual finds. If something is unusual and interesting enough to catch your attention we want to see it too.

Upload your Coast Watchers Photos
Upload your Coast Watchers Photos

3. Recording how beach material moves

Plus – there are some recording points (initially at Cleveleys, more below) where your photos will actually record how the beach material is being moved about by the sea. These locations have been chosen because the sand and pebbles move around a lot there, enough to see in a sequence of photos.

When lots of us take lots of photos over a long period of time at the same recording points, our photos will show just how much the beach moves around.

The next step is to work out how the photos you take at the recording points can be translated into a meaningful record of measurement.This is the whizzy bit so it will take a bit of working out. We’ve already got a plan of how you can get involved.

Find out where recording points are, here

4. Joining information together

We don’t miss a lot here at Visit Fylde Coast, but even we were surprised to find out just how many measuring devices are operating around our shoreline. You can access equipment that records weather conditions at sea, with tide gauges and wave buoys. We’re collecting links to all of this fascinating weather stuff here so that you can have a look at it for yourself.

These measuring devices currently exist in isolation from each other so we’ll be looking at ways to bring everything together in a way that we can understand.

You might already enjoy watching our own beach-cam and there are other sites that can help you to identify ships at sea and plane tracking etc.

More about your local Coast

There’s all kinds of other useful and interesting information about the beach environment and the sea. Take a look around the other pages in the Coast Watchers category.

Why Watching the Coast is Important

Here on the Fylde Coast we’re lucky that the vast majority of our sea defences are man-made. Most of them new or well maintained and huge amounts of money has been spent on protecting the area. Other areas of the UK coast aren’t so lucky.

For example, cliff top homes in Hemsby, on the Norfolk coast, were at the point of collapsing into the sea. High winds and waves eroded the sand dunes in March 2018. Seeing this brings home just how vulnerable we could be as a coastal community, and why we should always respect the sea.

Read about the Norfolk coast collapse

What do you want to know about the coast?

The coastline is a fascinating place. If you like this kind of thing it fills you with awe and wonder. And probably a lot of questions!

Like ‘why is there a channel in a particular spot on the beach’. (Not forgetting to always take care not to get cut off on sandbanks on the beach.)

We’re often asked about the shingle island off Fleetwood and why it’s getting so big?’ It’s always been there but why is it now out of the water at high tide, when it wasn’t before?

Those of us who love the coast know that the beach moves about every day. One day there might be a sandbank, the next day a carved out channel. These are ephemeral changes but it takes a longer period of time to measure an actual trend.

Low levels of shingle on Rossall Beach at Cleveleys. Where does it all go? Find out with Coast Watchers
Low levels of shingle on Rossall Beach at Cleveleys. Where does it all go? Why does the beach rise and fall?

Between lots of us (and our photos) we might be able to work out the answer to bigger questions. For example ‘is an 8m tide still reaching the same point on the beach now that it did 5 years ago’. Or maybe, what is an 8m tide?

We want to know what you want to know. We want to be able to answer your questions and investigate the reasons behind the things you want to know. Email your question to jane@theRabbitPatch.co.uk and we’ll endeavour to find out!

How you can join in with Coast Watchers

You can join in with Coast Watchers a little bit or a lot.

  1. Take photos of the beach and sea and upload them to the timeline.
  2. Watch out for the marker points and signs on the seafront. Take photos while you’re out walking, upload them and contribute your bit to science!
  3. Rossall Beach Residents & Community Group is the community partner in the project. Come along to beach clean-ups and meetings for a chat and an update. If you’re involved with the Group you’ll be one of the first to find out what’s happening.
  4. There’s a small Coast Watchers Community Group, made up of people who are interested in developing the project.
    If you’re interested in the weather, photography, computers, beaches, sea defences, science and engineering then get in touch and join in.
Pull your wellingtons on and get involved with Coast Watchers
Pull your wellingtons on and get involved with Coast Watchers

It’s important that everyone can understand Coast Watchers and take part. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist – just interested. If there’s anything that you don’t understand or find too complicated please let us know!

We’ll be developing Coast Watchers on Visit Fylde Coast. You’ll be able to see lots of fascinating information and we’ll be providing you with lots of exciting opportunities to join in.

I wonder what we’ll come up with next? Stick with us and be part of it.

How Coast Watchers Began

In the beginning Michael Lusty, a Masters student at Lancaster University, was involved with the project. He was looking at ways where the public could collect photos from which quite detailed (and useful) data can be extracted.

One of the ways is with ‘structure from motion’. That’s where you take lots of photos and the clever whizzy software makes them into a 3D view. 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

Structure from Motion 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 Structure from Motion 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 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

Transforming flat photos into a 3 dimensional image –

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.

As Coast Watchers progresses, the working group will get together again to look at the next steps in using Structure from Motion.

While you’re here…

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

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