Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Monitoring Project

Channel Islands Naturalist Corps

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Shauna Bingham
    Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary


  • Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
  • Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary Foundation
  • Channel Islands National Park
Start Date: January 01, 1999

Channel Islands Naturalist Corps volunteers are trained by CINMS and CINP to educate the public on board local marine excursion vessels conducting whale watch tours, natural history tours, and island trips. Channel Islands Naturalist Corps volunteers are trained to conduct citizen science on marine mammal field identification and general research. Research objectives of the program include the development of a comprehensive database of incidental marine mammal sightings and reports collected in the Santa Barbara Channel, CINMS and CINP.

Channel Islands Naturalist Corps provide valuable data for the following research projects: Marine Mammal Sightings Database, Cascadia Research Collective, American Cetacean Society-LA Chapter Orca, State of California Marine Biotoxin Monitoring Program. CINC data also supports Whale Alert West Coast.

Surveys record sightings throughout the entire Santa Barbara Channel on whale watching vessels out of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Channel Islands harbors. Volunteers record any of the 28 species of cetaceans that occur in the Santa Barbara Channel and CINMS. Rare pinnipeds (northen elephant seal, northern fur seal, Stellar sea lion, Guadalupe fur seal) and southern sea otter sightings are recorded, however the common California sea lions and harbor seals are not recorded unless entangled.

Summary to Date

Recent data and maps are accessible at Whale Aware:

Photo-identication data collected by CINC are submitted to Cascadia Research Collective. Recent abundance estimates for blue and humpback whales from capture-recapture and line-transect estimates are published by Cascadia Reseach Collective.

Monitoring Trends

  • The Channel Islands Naturalist Corps marine mammal sightings database records dates back as far as 1999.
  • Current data being entered through a smartphone or tablet using the SpotterPro app. Recent CINC data and maps are accessible at Whale Alert-West Coast:


Whale Alert - West Coast was formed by The Office of the National Marine Sanctuaries, Conserve.IO and Point Blue Conservation Science, working in coordination with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), to help reduce the number of ship collisions with whales. Channel Islands Naturalist Corps volunteers provide valuable citizen science data as part of this effort which includes data from 1999 to present. They also support long-term monitoring trends including photo-ID for Cascadia Research Collective and the ACS-LA Chapter Offshore and Transient Orca study.

Study Parameters

  • Stock assessment
  • Migration/movement patterns
  • Distribution
  • Abundance

Study Methods

Channel Islands Naturalist Corps volunteers are specially trained and are dedicated to educating the public about the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. They volunteer aboard whale watching vessels and work as citizen scientists recording marine mammal sightings and note the date, time, species, geographic coordinates, number of individuals, distance between the vessel and the animal, behavior and which vessel they are aboard at the during the sighting.

Channel Islands Naturalist Corps volunteer methods include survey efforts as well as opportunistic sighting data and photographic identification of animals. Vessels operate out of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Channel Islands Harbors.