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The Visual Assessment Survey Tool (VAST) engages coastal citizens, youth and community groups in collecting data to fill knowledge gaps for shorelines of the Great Lakes.

The VAST project blends science, story-telling, and technology to create a near real-time coastal monitoring network. Using the data submitted by citizen scientists, changes to the Great Lakes shorelines can be actively tracked. Watch the video below to learn more!

To see our network in action, click on the image below.

Why does it matter?

There is insufficient ecological information to address key coastal issues along the Great Lakes shorelines

Each area of the Great Lakes Coast has unique issues that it faces, making a single management approach impractical.

A few of the coastal stressors degrading the health of our coastal ecosystems are outlined below.


  • Nuisance and harmful algae has become more common leading to increased beach closures. 

  • Accelerated rates of shoreline erosion threaten wildlife, and damage property and infrastructure we depend on. 

  • Plastics and other litter continue to pollute our shores and our freshwater resources.

The observations collected by VAST will address these knowledge gaps and aid coastal managers in making informed decisions about the coast.

To learn more about how these stressors negatively impact coastal environments visit our Coastal Academy!

Our Impact

VAST enables coastal communities to become active participants in the protection of their shorelines by tracking changing coastal conditions.

The interactive map below shows all of the locations currently surveyed by VAST. You can zoom in and pan to other areas of the map. Areas in white have been surveyed more frequently.


To learn more about the impact of the data collected by citizen scientists for VAST in 2021 read our storymap linked below!

Protecting Our Coasts One Picture at a Time: VAST 2021 Year in Review

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