Volunteer Programs

San Diego Coastkeeperʼs range of volunteer programs reflect our belief that we all have the right to live in a clean, healthy environment, and we all have a responsibility to help keep it that way. An important part of our mission is providing a means through which community members like yourself can have a meaningful and effective impact on the health of San Diegoʼs fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters. We canʼt save San Diegoʼs rivers, streams and coastal waters without you.

Water Quality Monitoring

The Water Quality Monitoring Program creates a pathway for interested residents to learn the scientific tools they need to not only understand their local watersheds, but directly influence local resource management. Trained volunteers meet once every two months to form small teams and head to sites along nine of San Diegoʼs eleven watershed management areas. At these sites, volunteers take readings, make observations, and collect water samples that we then analyze in our water quality laboratory. We use the data collected in these sampling sessions as a powerful tool that fills the gaps created by limited governing agency resources and to track sources of pollution.

Anyone interested in joining the Water Quality Monitoring Program must attend a training session before participating. Trainings for new volunteers are scheduled and held once or twice a year on an as-needed basis and space in trainings is very limited, so volunteers are asked to make sure they can commit to the program for at least one year and attend at least half of the monthly sessions at that time before they sign up. Monitors looking for an even deeper commitment may elect to become Site Captains, and have opportunities to join special seasonal teams, such as the Storm Response Team. For current and upcoming opportunities, visit our volunteer opportunities, and check out the 2018 water quality monitoring schedule.

Beach Cleanups

We love to play on clean beaches, thatʼs why we host twice-monthly beach cleanups, offer cleanup kits for the public to borrow and participate in major events like California Coastal Cleanup Day. With our partners at Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter, we helped remove tens of tons of trash from San Diegoʼs beaches and waters. The best part? Beach cleanups are open and available to the public. They are a perfect way for individuals, families and groups to have an immediate and satisfying impact on their environment and a great excuse to get outside. Volunteers simply show up, sign-in, borrow some supplies, and hit the beach to clean up. Those who want to deepen their impact by helping host cleanups regularly are encouraged to email cleanups@sdcoastkeeper.org for more information. To learn more about the different kinds of beach cleanups we offer, visit our beach cleanups page. Check out our events calendar for a complete list of this yearʼs cleanups.

Lab Volunteers

San Diego Coastkeeper’s Water Quality Laboratory is at the heart of much of the work we do to protect and restore water quality in our region. As home-base for the Water Quality Monitoring Program, debris study projects, bioassesments, and our winter Storm Response Team, the lab sees a lot of action. Volunteers looking to build lab skills and get some hands-on experience working in a laboratory are welcome to sign up for the Saturday and Sunday lab shifts that follow our monthly Water Quality Monitoring sessions. Lab volunteers assist in preparing and analyzing water samples, bottle-washing, and data-entry. Lab internships are also occasionally offered for university students. Look for lab opportunities on our volunteer opportunities page, or visit our internships page to see if there is currently a lab internship available.

Special Projects and Seasonal Programs

Diversity is the spice of life, so in addition to our ongoing regular volunteer programs, San Diego Coastkeeper frequently hosts short-term volunteer opportunities in special projects. In the spring, we conduct bioassessments in one or two chosen rivers or streams to get a deeper look into their health. Bioassessments take our water quality work one step further by adding a qualitative dimension that considers the impact that water quality has on aquatic life (aka creepy crawlies, bugglies, buggos) in those waterways. Adventurous volunteers attend training session, and then participate in a number of rigorous and deeply interesting assessments. In the winter months, we activate a stormwater sampling program called Storm Response Team. These volunteers, who are already trained Water Quality Monitors, act as San Diego’s own storm chasers, mobilizing to collect samples from rain-swollen waterways in areas we suspect are disproportionately impacted by urban or industrial runoff. The samples these intrepid volunteers collect give us a unique snapshot of the pollutants being pushed through the area, and help us track down and map the source. Other projects we have participated in include a plastic debris study of the salt marshes and mudflats surrounding San Diego Bay, fish-gut analysis projects, and more. Volunteers interested in joining our special programs are encouraged to sign up for the San Diego Coastkeeper volunteer newsletter, where we announce all upcoming volunteer opportunities.


San Diego Coastkeeper hosts two great fundraisers annually, and participates in a handful of educational and outreach events throughout the year. These events provide opportunities for volunteers to join Coastkeeper staff in running the events, and are a fun way to give back and support clean water while having a great time. Volunteers interested in helping out at events are encouraged to email volunteer@sdcoastkeeper.org to be added to our event email list, and to sign up for our monthly volunteer newsletter to stay in the loop.

Boat Captains

Boaters and San Diego Coastkeeper were meant for each other. From its inception in 1995, Coastkeeper has patrolled the waters we protect–it’s part of our Waterkeeper Alliance charter. We rely on boat captains and skippers to keep Clean Sweep –that’s our boat– patrolling the waters so we can connect with other boaters about environmentally friendly boating practices. Keep in mind, to apply as a boat captain you will need to have a captainʼs license and/or 5+ years of boating experience. Write to volunteer@sdcoastkeeper.org directly for more information.


San Diego Coastkeeper loves positive symbiotic relationships, and the partnership we have with our interns is among the best. They are where talented people can apply their strengths and skills in legislative work, marketing, education or event planning to meaningful environmental work. For full details on Coastkeeper internships, read our internship descriptions.

Community Service

Coastkeeper is happy to offer community service verification letters for volunteer work done under supervision of Coastkeeper staff or at Coastkeeper event. We cannot verify community service for unsupervised hours, such as time spent conducting your own beach cleanup using our Beach Cleanup in a Box kit. For people who need to complete a large number of hours as part of a certification program or by court order, we occasionally need help with in-office projects such as assembling education kits and stuffing envelopes, and you are welcome to reach out to us to inquire about current availability. Please write to volunteer@sdcoastkeeper.org if you have any questions.