What is BeringWatch?

An Island Sentinel records data on St. Paul Island, Alaska.

BeringWatch: Community-Based Monitoring

BeringWatch is a valuable standardized, but customizable, tool for recording and communicating significant environmental and ecological events in order to empower remote communities dealing with the effects of climate change. Our approach enables communities to implement rigorous monitoring programs and utilize our well-refined environmental database with a internet-based access system.

BeringWatch Goals:

  • To provide data collection tools to enable and empower local environmental and community-based monitoring.
  • To facilitate communication of relevant ecological and biological information within and between Bering Sea villages, scientists, resource managers,  local, state, tribal, and federal governmental agencies, and the wider stakeholder community.

BeringWatch: Proven Success in Environmental Monitoring

The BeringWatch database was developed and refined by the Island Sentinel Programs on St. Paul and St. George Islands, Alaska and later used by the Aleut Marine Mammal Commission. The new web portal adapts these systems for use by a much broader user group that and is designed to be adaptable for use across differing cultural and ecological regions.

The two key aspects that make BeringWatch unique are its internet home and its network design. Being web-based solves equipment-related problems (i.e., compatibility of data entry and storage programs) and allows for broad networking among communities. A network approach means that permission to access data is granted at the local level, providing local ownership and proprietary rights, a necessary part of local stewardship. The network model is also well suited to incorporating rigorous data quality standards through continuous interactions between local observers, regional coordinators, technical advisors, and scientific advisors.

There are two broad categories of environmental data and how it is collected and stored: wide ranging descriptive data and more focused, detailed observations on specific, or focal, species. Wide range descriptive data can be entered by anyone in a community with minimal training and is primarily narrative. Examples include environmental anomalies, anything the local observer sees as environmentally relevant, or local and traditional knowledge passed on to observers or Citizen Sentinels by other community members. Media documentation uploads (e.g., photos, videos) are simple and are permanently linked to the record.

The second category is more focused on detailed data from specific target species (e.g., marine mammals or seabirds). This level of data collection involves setting up protocols for data collection and training individuals in the community in protocols, quality control procedures, and database management. Focal species data collection is most likely to only be carried out by dedicated (and often paid) observers such as the Sentinel Programs in the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands.