Sea Star Monitoring with iNaturalist – Get Involved!

Photo – Hakai Institue, Grant Callegari

Calling all beachcombers, nature-lovers, and community scientists! As the weather warms and low tide move to friendlier hours of the day, Friends of Cortes Island Society (FOCI) and the Hakai Institute would love your help with documenting sea stars around Cortes Island. FOCI and Hakai are collaborating on a new project to monitor sea stars in the Discovery Islands in order to learn more about the extent of sea star wasting syndrome and how well sea stars are recovering in the region — and the more eyes we can get on the ground (or in the water) the better!

If you see sea stars of any species — healthy or diseased — while out exploring the shore, simply snap a few photos and share your observations to the online community science platform iNaturalist. You don’t even need to know which species you’ve found: the iNaturalist AI system and its community of naturalists will help you identify your many-armed finds.

If you love keeping your eyes peeled for cool critters while walking along shorelines, this is the project for you! To get started with iNaturalist, visit the Getting Started Guide, and check out Hakai’s video introduction to iNaturalist.

Visit the Sea Star Monitoring in the Discovery Islands project on iNaturalist to see recent observations, join the project, and get project updates.


What is sea star wasting?

Photo – Hakai Institute, Faye Manning

Sea star wasting affects the tissues of sea stars and is ultimately fatal. The current sea star wasting epidemic started in 2013, and caused a widespread and unprecedented die-off of sea stars from Alaska to California. It continues to persist at low levels throughout the region. Populations of some species show signs of recovery in some places, while others are still depleted, or even extirpated. Researchers are now exploring big questions about the persistence of sea star wasting and how well populations are recovering throughout British Columbia and beyond.

You can download here our Sea Star Wasting Disease Primer.

How can I get more involved?

We invite anyone who is interested to make observations anytime you spot sea stars on a beach. We are also planning monthly low tide observation walks starting in April 2021. To learn more about this project and how you can get involved in these monthly surveys, contact Kelly Fretwell at