Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Volunteer of the Year Award goes to MLML Affiliates Scott Benson and Karin Forney

Scott Benson and Karin Forney have been honored by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) for their outstanding volunteer service in support of the BeachCOMBERS (Coastal Ocean Mammal and Bird Education and Research Surveys) program. This citizen-science program identifies seasonal and long-term biological trends in natural and anthropogenic mortality of marine mammals and seabirds and provides important information to resources managers.  Scott originally developed the BeachCOMBERS program in 1997, in collaboration with MBNMS and MLML, while attending graduate school at MLML. The program initially covered about 30 miles of beach in Monterey Bay and has since expanded to include beaches as far south as Ventura County.  For the past 21 years, Scott and Karin have conducted systematic monthly surveys on one of the 3-mile beach sections in Monterey Bay to enumerate and identify beachcast birds and mammals.  Over the years, Scott has trained dozens of volunteers in rigorous science-based data collection methods and species identification.  Scott and Karin have also co-authored several publications and conference presentations resulting from these data, including analyses of fishery bycatch, oiling events, and natural mortality spikes caused by El Niño conditions or toxic algal blooms.