Oregon high school teacher Mike Brown formed the Coastal Studies and Technology Center in 1992 to provide opportunities for students to study GIS and other technologies while participating in environmental projects conducted by state and local government. Barely two years into the program, the center, its founder and students were chosen by President Clinton and the EPA as the National Educational Model Program for 1994, and won the EPA's Region 10 President's Environmental Youth Award. These honors included White House invitations to give presentations to the president, vice president and the director of the EPA.


Today, the Coastal Studies and Technology Center, on the small campus (550 students) of Seaside High School, is a nonprofit corporation managed by the Seaside School District, the community, the State University at Portland, and Clatsop Community College. In addition to serving as a research and development center for students, faculty and the larger community, the center provides science programs that emphasize modern technology applications in coastal and watershed studies. Hands-on assignments include GIS modeling, tabular and spatial data collection, GPS mapping and video editing, among others. In addition to encouraging individual GIS projects, the center provides opportunities for students to take part in regional and local environmental projects conducted by government agencies and other public entities.

"Initially, we wanted to have a vehicle that would enable our students to participate in scientific projects that were taking place in our own community," Brown said. "We also wanted the center to be a base for scientists temporarily working in this area so that our students could participate in that work. By forming partnerships and connections, we've been able to establish that."


Brown's ideas quickly led to the center's involvement in an environmental study of the lower Columbia River. Through connections established with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) and the Columbia River Estuary Study Task Force (CREST), students from the center and other schools helped to determine if removal of a section of the south jetty at the mouth of the lower Columbia River would restore the ecosystem of Trestle Bay.

According to CREST Director Jon Graves, years of sediment had built up around the jetty and formed a 600-acre lagoon in Trestle Bay, separating it from the Columbia River. "Water was going back and forth, but not large fish and crabs. One of the proposals was to open a 500-foot section of the jetty, allowing the tide to flush out the built-up sediment and restore salmon, crab and bird habitats."

Eric Kranzush, now a junior at Seaside, worked on the project in his freshman year. "We took field notes on temperature and salinity in the tidal marsh around Trestle Bay, and classified sedimentation samples and benthic [bottom-dwelling] invertebrates provided by the NMFS. CREST gave us aerial photos and satellite imagery. We entered data collected from field and lab work directly into ArcView, then built layers of different tidal influences over the satellite image. We did a lot of multiple-layer images for the NMFS."

Graves said Seaside students also recorded vegetation plots with GPS, and used aerial photos to do salt-marsh mapping of Trestle Bay. "As a result of that study, the jetty was opened, the section taken out and moved about 200 feet north into the river. In 1997, the students will be back again, looking at benthic invertebrate use in Trestle Bay to see if removal of the jetty has changed the communities out there."


Asked about the quality of data provided by the center, Graves responded, "They do very good work. For example, Oregon's land-use planning requires every estuary to have an inventory done on all the physical, biological and chemical aspects. The inventories that the Coastal Studies and Technology Center did for the Necanicum