Snap the coast this summer to help protect beaches


An international citizen science project needs people to use their phones to track the changing coastline, while visitors to the beaches are advised to book

Maritime modelling

Scientists are asking people at the coast to join in a worldwide research project that tracks the evolution of our coastlines and improves coastal defences as sea levels rise. The Coast Snap project asks residents and visitors to take photos of the coast from specially installed posts so researchers can analyse the results.

Rising sea levels due to climate change increase the risk of flooding. Monitoring the evolution of the coastline allows the authorities to strengthen weak spots in coastal defence systems.

“A beach is constantly evolving with the rhythm of the seasons. Sometimes the sand blows up new dunes, at other times a winter storm causes ‘beach cliffs’,” Jan Seys of the Flemish Marine Institute  told Het Laatste Nieuws. “Scientists study this evolution and collect data to check mathematical models. These data and models are priceless when monitoring the existing beaches and when planning additional coastal protection.”

Book your beach spot

There are posts at the Spinoladijk in Ostend and Groenendijk in Koksijde. After people take photos, they can be shared via social media using the hashtag #coastsnap or via email to the project team. Instruction boards at each post explain how to take photos and submit them.

“The post in Ostend has been there for six weeks and we’re receiving one photo from a citizen on average every day,” Seys told VRT. “That could be even better, so I’m appealing to everyone to cooperate.”

Coast Snap is an international community science initiative that began in Australia in 2017. It now has 75 posts installed around the world, with special cradles for smartphones that ensure each photo is taken from the same angle and at the same height. This allows researchers to measure the changing shape of the beach and movement of the shoreline, to discover how each beach responds to changing ocean conditions.

A beach is constantly evolving with the rhythm of the seasons

- Jan Seys

Meanwhile, with Friday set to be the hottest day of the year so far, visitors to Ostend this weekend are being advised to book their place on the beach before travelling. This is the second time the city has activated its beach registration system this summer, designed to control numbers and restrict the spread of the coronavirus.

Reservation is free, and is required for the city’s three busiest beaches, from Zeeheldenplein as far as the Venetian Galleries. There are places for 15,000 people in total; by Thursday, more than 12,000 people had reserved. Reserve online or by calling 0800 62 167. The beaches at Oosteroever, Mariakerke and Raversijde are freely accessible without booking.

Temperatures are expected to reach 36 degrees on Friday, both at the coast and inland, before falling sharply from Sunday. The rail operator NMBS has scheduled extra trains to the coast in expectation of high demand, allowing passengers to distance from each other while travelling.

Photo courtesy VRT