US Army Corps of Engineers

Coastal Inlets Research Program


Citizen Science - Beach Grain Size Data Collection

The US Army Corps of Engineers, James Madison University, Marda Science, LLC and USGS have partnered together in an endeavor to develop a way to collect beach grain size information using citizen scientists armed with their cell phone and any US coin. We need beach sediment samples and images from all over the United States to test out processing techniques and your help will be quite valuable!


  • 1) From a sandy beach, find a section of dry beach that seems representative of the area.
  • 2) Scrape the top 1/2-inch from the surface of the beach and pat the sand down to create a smooth bottom within the depression.
    It is important that the surface to be photographed is smooth. (Hint: use the bottom of your sandal to smooth it out)
Hole example

Image Collection

  • Place a US coin in the hole for scale and pull out your camera phone.
  • Take photos of the sediment with the coin on the side of the image (see example images).
  • The coin should take up 10-20% of the image, so your phone may seem unusually close (4-8 inches) to the ground.
1) Make sure to tap on your phone screen to focus the image on the sand and not the coin.
2) Make sure the camera is parallel with the ground and try to keep any shadows out of the image.
  • Upload your images at
  • Tap the icon or the "Press to Set Location" link to record the location of the sample
  • Upload the image
  • Note the sample name
Example Images
Quarter Example 1

Quarter Example 2

Sediment Sampling

  • After images have been taken, sample from the top 2-3 inches of sediment in the hole
  • Collect 3-4 measuring cups of sediment (~3/4 of a sandwich zip-lock bag or ~1/2 of a quart-sized bag).
  • Label the sample bag with the name of the town and a sample number.
  • Send in the sample to:
    ATTN: Brian McFall
    Bldg. 3200
    3909 Halls Ferry Road
    Vicksburg, MS 39180
Thank you for your help! Our shorelines are a beautiful and dynamic area. In many areas they are also heavily developed and require active management. Good management begins with good science. The grain size will impact the beach shape and how easily sediment is eroded. Resource managers need this information to make sound management decisions.
Point of Contact
Engineer Research and Development Center
Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory
Vicksburg, MS 39180