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VAST Benefits for Great Lakes Shoreline Resiliency from Community Coastal Monitoring

Niagara’s Visual Assessment Survey Tool (VAST) is expanding this year to monitor the success of local restoration projects improving coastal resiliency. Coastal communities and visitors can get involved today, becoming active participants in the protection of their shorelines.
Jul 12, 2022
2:30 p.m.

Click here to view last year's press release anouncing the launch of the VAST project.

Marram beach grass growing on a newly restored coastal dune.
Marram beach grass growing on a newly restored coastal dune.

Launched in the summer of 2021 by Niagara Coastal, VAST engages coastal residents, visitors, community groups and other local organizations in collecting data to fill knowledge gaps across our Great Lakes shorelines. Participating citizen scientists complete surveys and submit standardized, repeatable images to monitor coastal stressors. These images and data are used to advocate for policy changes, guide coastal management decisions, and identify local actions that communities can take to improve their shorelines.

In its first year of operation, over 1,800 photos from 70 different sites across the Great Lakes shoreline were submitted to the VAST platform. The monitoring season reopened this year on April 15 and is well underway. Citizen scientists have already submitted over 660 images of the coast, volunteering 180 hours of their time to support shoreline protection.

Data and images for shorelines across Southern Ontario can be viewed on the interactive Explore page of the VAST Web App!

“The opportunity to actively participate in the protection of our shorelines is very rewarding for our citizen scientists,” comments Kiersten McCutcheon, VAST Project Coordinator at Niagara Coastal. “Volunteers have expressed how their involvement with VAST has led to a meaningful connection with the Great Lakes and has provided an opportunity to collaborate with other like-minded people to protect the quality of the lakes.”

The EcoAction Community Fund - established by Environment and Climate Change Canada provides support to Canadian communities to take on local action-based projects. This funding has provided an opportunity for Niagara Coastal to work towards increasing shoreline resiliency on Lake Erie through nature-based shoreline stabilization projects. As part of this project, VAST is expanding to allow coastal communities and visitors to monitor the success of local restoration projects over time. Restoration projects are currently underway to restore privately owned shorelines and a few publicly accessible beaches. Signs will soon be installed at the restored beaches encouraging beach visitors and communities to submit a VAST survey.

“Our partnership with Niagara Coastal based on mutual interest in shoreline resiliency, which led to VAST, is already leading to significant collaborative restoration efforts and ongoing community outreach and engagement with respect to these treasured and unique ecosystems in the watershed,” says Geoff Verkade, Senior Manager of Integrated Watershed Planning, and Information Management at NPCA. “As the NPCA will initiate updating its Shoreline Management Plans next year, we are excited to see the valuable information that the community will collect through VAST’s second year on Niagara’s beaches and coasts.”

Residents in coastal communities and visitors alike are encouraged to get involved and become active stewards of their shorelines. Volunteers can monitor their shoreline anytime and from anywhere on the Great Lakes with VAST!

Learn more about the Visual Assessment Survey Tool and how to get involved at

Follow @niagaracoastal on Instagram and Facebook for more updates.

Heat Map showing all the locations surveyed by VAST volunteers. Areas in white have been more frequently surveyed, while blue areas are less frequently surveyed. The map is current as of August 16, 2022.
Heat Map showing all the locations surveyed by VAST volunteers. Areas in white have been more frequently surveyed, while blue areas are less frequently surveyed. The map is current as of August 16, 2022.

About Niagara Coastal:

The Niagara Coastal Community Collaborative is committed to understanding and improving the health of Lake Erie’s coast, in collaboration with eNGOs, government, landowners, academia, and community members. They operate across Lake Erie’s north shore in the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral peoples, with acknowledgement that the area influencing this coast includes 29 watersheds contributing to the lake.


Niagara Coastal works on three ecological priorities— nature-based shorelines, healthy beaches, and habitat and species. They are dedicated to optimizing and expanding local action to build a healthy and resilient Lake Erie coastal ecosystem that supports the community's economic, recreational, environmental, and health and well-being needs.

About NPCA: 

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) is a community-based natural resource management agency that works to protect, enhance, and sustain healthy watersheds. With 61 years of experience, the NPCA offers watershed programs and services that focus on flood and hazard management, source water protection, species protection, ecosystem restoration, community stewardship, and land management. 

The NPCA is one of 36 Conservation Authorities in the Province of Ontario and manages 41 Conservation Areas within the Niagara Peninsula watershed held in public trust for recreation, heritage preservation, conservation, and education. These natural and shared greenspaces marry nature, culture, and adventure to create limitless opportunities for discovery. Visit for more information.

Questions related to the above release should be directed to: 

Kiersten McCutcheon, VAST Project Coordinator

Mobile: 226-668-7198

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