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Rocky Shore 

February 1, 2013

New Naturalist Training Course Spring 2013


We are now recruiting for new Rocky Shore Naturalists.  Our next course begins Saturday March 2nd and runs through Saturday April 27th.  Most of our meetings will be at the Academy, but we will sometimes meet at the Gulf of the Farallones offices at Crissy Field. We will have three trips to the tidepools (March 30th @ 7-10AM, April 13th @ 7-10AM  and April 27th @ 7-10 AM).  You must attend two of the field days.

In this training you will:

  • Study the natural history of tidepool animals and algae with an Academy scientist
  • Be a part of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary  and California Academy of Sciences volunteer corps
  • Learn monitoring techniques and participate in scientific research
  • Become a part of a larger citizen science community
  • Learn how to be the best stewards of tidepool habitats and how to convey stewardship messages to visitors
  • Interact with California Academy of Sciences visitors and visitors to the tidepools at Duxbury Reef in Marin County and Pillar Point in San Mateo County

We ask that after the training is complete, you commit to volunteering at least once a month for a year.

Volunteer choices after completion of the course are:
  1. Working as a roving naturalist at Duxbury Reef in Bolinas or Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay.
  2. Helping out with student intertidal monitoring at one of the beaches listed above.
  3. Working and talking to visitors to the Discovery touch tide pool at the Academy of Sciences.
  4. Participating in citizen science monitoring of invertebrates and algae.
  5. Counting visitors to the reef.
  6. Other opportunities as they arise.

If you have further questions, or would like to sign up please email, rockyshore@calacademy.org

Filed under: Naturalist Training Course — rebecca @ 12:33 pm

February 25, 2010

Day Three-Blowhole Peninsula and Low Arch

What a difference a day makes…yesterday we got over an inch of rain and today the weather was beautiful!


We did all 14 of the quadrats and also had time to do timed searches for black and red abalones (Haliotis rufescens and Haliotis craacherodii) and ochre stars (Pisaster ochraceous).  We had help from PRBO interns, Stephen and Amanda, which made our tasks even quicker.

We found five abalones in the Queen’s Bath tidepool..  It is rare on the mainland to find a protected tidepool that is big enough to swim in….but I have seen a few on the island.  Gery swam around to look under overhangs for abalone.



The water is really clear in many of the pools.  The island including the intertidal is granitic, make up of granodiorite and quartz diorite the  granitic diorite…unlike most of the reefs (Duxbury, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and Pillar Point) near San Francisco, which are made up of soft sedimentary rock (mudstone), these rocks don’t cloud up the water with sedimentation.  Additionally, because the granitic rock is so much harder animals that bore into mudstone on the mainland, can’t do so on the island.

You can see the difference in the purple sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus)…the first picture is from Duxbury reef (the animals are surrounded by the mudstone that has beenworn away by the combined eroding action of their spines and their feeding structure (called an Aristolte’s lantern).  The second is from Queen’s bath on the Farallones, where the rock it too hard to be worn away by their spines.


Duxbury Reef urchins-on mudstone


Farallon Island urchins-on granitic rocks


Granitic intertidal at Low Arch with mussels and a view of Saddle Rock

Filed under: Farallon Islands,Intertidal Research — rebecca @ 12:19 pm

February 24, 2010

Day Two-Monitoring in the Rain

Over one third of the world’s Western Gulls (Larus occidentalis) breed on the Farallon Islands.  It is incredible to see some many birds in one place! (but notihing compared to when all of the breeding birds are here during the summer).  These are the same gulls that star in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds!  They are here now, working out their territories, pooping everywhere and making lots of noise.  It looks like they are eating market squids (Loligo opalescens) because some of their dropping are really black from the ink and you can sometimes find tiny squid beaks in their regurgitated food…..


Yesterday we braved the rain and win gusts up tp 30 knots to count the invertebrates and algae out at Dead Sea Lion Cove.  We couldn’t work in this area when we were out in November because there were Steller Sea Lions hauled out on shore.  Stellars are a threatened species, so we always defer to them and let them rest where ever they choose.

One of the PRBO interns, Stephen, gave us a much needed hand…he is really a herpetologist and marine mammalogist, but we may convert him to an invertebrate zoologist yet!

In this picture Steven (black coat) and the intertidal crew, Jan-blue coat, Scott Kimura (red coat) and Gery (orange coat) are counting inverts and algae in two of our quadrats.

Gery found some pulmonate (air-breathing) limpets, Trimusculus reticulatus, on the top of an overhang while he was searching for endangered black abalones (Haliotis cracherodii).  The National Marine Fisheries Service NOAA restoration is working on a restoration plan for this snail, one of only two endangered marine invertebrates in California.  We are looking to see if there are any in the intertidal on teh island…they were seem here in the 1997, but not since….we will do thorough searches at all of our sites this week.   He didn’t find and abalones, but we got his nice picture of the Trimusculus (They are the white ‘button-like snails on the top left of the overhang above the mussels). THe weather is much nicer today…so we are of to Blowhole peninsula and hopefully Jewel Cave!  More soon…..



Filed under: Uncategorized — rebecca @ 11:40 am

February 23, 2010

Day One-Helicopter, Whales and Island Changes


We (Jan Roletto-Reserach coordinator at the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary- and I ) were lucky enough to take a Coast Guard Helicopter to the Farallones yesterday.  Our crew, Ian, Matt and Ricky were awesome.  They took us past Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard, AT&T park, Fort Mason and over the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was a beautifully clear day.  I had never been in a helicopter and was a bit nervous, but it was fun and really fast.  We were circling the island only 25 minutes after we left the deck at the Coast Guard air station near SFO.  The guys were  just as excited as us to fly over a pod of grey whales and I got a great shot of them!


They also swung us by the north Farallon islands…..

It is amazing to see the seasonal changes on the island.  With the winter rains the Lasthenia maritima-Maritime goldfields or  ‘Farallon weed’ has really exploded.  It is so green.  Here are two pictures of the island.  The first is from last November and the next is from yesterday. The difference is amazing!

The island crew and research  focus have changed  too!  Derek, Monica, Amanda and Steven and have been out on the island for three months studying elephant seals (more later).


Today we are monitoring at ‘Dead Sea Lion Flat’

The camera is pointed there now:


More on our super rainy monitoring next-Rebecca


Filed under: Farallon Islands,Intertidal Research — rebecca @ 6:05 pm

February 19, 2010

Farallones Bound!

The Rocky Intertidal Survey team, organized by the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, is of to the Farallon Islands for our February sampling.  I have been running around all day gathering books, supplies and other resources.  I finally took the time to track down books and papers in the Academy libraries.  Thanks to Becky and Danielle in the library, Liz in Invertebrate Zoology & Geology and the great naturalist center staff I found some beautiful scinetific, historical and artistic writings on the Farallones.

Here is an assortment of the things I found today (This is one of the reasons I love working in a museum!)

From a collection of poems by Milton Smith Ray (Curator of the Ornithological Pacific Museum -a huge collection of nests and eggs, kept at his mansion-its for sale, check it out here) written in 1934 and used in the preface of Sarah Ward Koontz’s Master’s thesis on the sponges of the Farallon Islands.

Sea Gardens

On island merges everywhere

Save the narrow beaches walled and bare

Of pebbly shingle, shell or sand,

Swayed by the sea tides to and fro,

The dreaming gardens of the ocean grow.

With the wide retreat of the war-like wave

From rock-bound basin, cove and cave,

What hidden beauty lies revealed

That the foaming tide before concealed!

More verdant than the April mead

The skirts the island’s southern strand,

Are these bands and beds of curious weed!

With graceful ferns and subtile moss,

As fine as webs of silken floss,

Sway blooms grotesque of rarer hue

Than hand empearled with glistenin

g dew!

And here are the myriads of da

inty shells,

Asleep on the banks of weedy dells,

Or cast adrift on the sandy bars.

Like thistles huge amid the vines,

Cling the sea urchins

of unnumbered spines;

And strewn on rocky bank and bed,

Purple, dark, and richest red,

Like forlorn, forgott


en, fallen stars.

In Sarah Ward Kloontz’s thesis she inventoried all of the sea caves on the Farallones and figured all of the sponge zonation patterns in each cave. Finally getting around to reading this, helped me identify some of the sponges we saw in Jewel Cave last year.  I was especially happy to find the name (I think)  of this crazy sponge, Stelletta clarella:


I found a bunch of other stuff:

Maps, lists of species collected by the Farallones Research Group in the 1970s, a State Water Resources Report that resulted from those trips.  When I get back in March, I will go look at some rare books on the Farallones

we have in the Academy library.

Mildred Brooke Hoover (Herbert Hoover’s sister-in-law) and the Chair of the Historic Research Committee gave a paper on the Farallon Islands on April 5, 1932 to the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the State of California.  Her beautiful historical account includes maps drawn by Pedro Font (a member of the Jaun de Bautista de Anza’s second expedition in 1776).  She excepts it like this (th harbour of Harbours is the SF Bay):farallontraces

Compare this to a picture of the islands….


I also found a book from an old California Academy of Sciences exhibit from Wild California Hall in 1997.  I had forgotten about this exhibit, but it was a collaborative effort of the Academy, the Oakland Museum of California, the Point Reyes Bird Observatory and four local artists. We will be working at West End this time!!

Check out one example:

This is Farallones, West End, Sunset, 1995 by Tony King

My next post will be from the island!


Filed under: Farallon Islands,Intertidal Research — rebecca @ 6:37 pm

December 11, 2009

Now Recruiting New Rocky Shore Naturalists!


A new training course for Rocky Shore Naturalists will begin on March 1st 2010.  We are looking for volunteers interested in the intertidal natural history and sharing the diversity of local intertidal life with visitors to the California Academy of Sciences and Duxbury Reef in Bolinas.  Once training is completed, volunteers will work in the discovery tide pool at the Academy as well as work as roving docents and conduct scientific monitoring at Duxbury Reef.  Meetings will take place at the Academy and at the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Offices at Crissy Field.  Previous knowledge of intertidal zoology and ecology is not required, but may be helpful.  The only requirement is a passion for learning about California natural history, ecology and sharing that passion and knowledge with visitors.

Chlorostoma funebralis


If you are interested contact Rebecca Johnson at rjohnson ‘at’ calacademy.org

Filed under: Rocky Shore Naturalist Reports,Uncategorized — rebecca @ 3:29 pm

November 15, 2009

Day Five- 15 November 2009

Today was our last day of monitoring.  We have to leave the island two days early due to the predicted huge swells that will make it almost impossible to leave from north landing after tomorrow.  (Remember how we got on the island? Here is a photo of us how they ‘get groceries’ on the island to remind you how hard it is!)


We encountered lots of birds and mammals in our research sites today…we had Oystercatchers (look for the black bird with bright red beak right next to the white pvc pipe quadrat), endangered Stellar Sea Lion pups on one of our sites (we didn’t even get close!) and Elephant Seals really close to us while we were taking data (It is really thrilling to count anemones with an elephant seal four feet from your head!).


Filed under: Uncategorized — rebecca @ 8:30 pm

Day Four-14 November 2009

Here is a video of our research site from yesterday.  It is pretty typical of the rocky intertidal at the Farallones.

YouTube Preview Image

Today we monitored at Low Arch, it was beautiful.  Carol and I found a brooding six-rayed seastar (Leptasterias hexactis) while we were counting invertebrates in one of our quadrats. This species of seastar holds on to her eggs near her mouth until they are fully developed.  She had a tiny granite pebble protecting the eggs!  When we got back to the house we compared our permanent quadrat photos from this year and last.  We noticed a dramatic decrease in the number of mussels in at least one of our sites this year.  We will have to analyze all of our data and look at our many years of photos (16 years) to understand this change, but it is the fewest mussels we have ever seen in this quadrat.


Filed under: Uncategorized — rebecca @ 7:15 pm

November 14, 2009

Day Three-13 November 2009 (Friday the 13th!)


We began our rocky shore monitoring at Blow Hole, where we have four permanent research sites. We then add four more random sampling sites to collect additional data. These sites are 30cm X 50cm rectangles, called quadrats. At all eight sites we count invertebrates (snails, mussels, barnalces etc.) and we use a plexi-glass grid to randomly select a point where we count the algae and invertebrates.

YouTube Preview Image

The data we collect informs the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary about the health of the rocky shore ecosystem. This information serves as a baseline or benchmark and aids management in addressing issues such as oil spills and invasive species. The data is also used to identify impacts from global climate change by detecting and tracking shifts in species range, distribution and abundance. The Sanctuary has been sampling at the Farallon Islands since 1992.

Filed under: Farallon Islands,Intertidal Research — rebecca @ 1:42 pm

November 13, 2009

Afternoon Day Two-12 November 2009

At the low tide we climbed to the famous Jewel Cave, to conduct a species inventory and be wowed by the stunning colorful intertidal life.  Above are some of the ‘jewels’ we found in the cave. Clockwise from the top left: Cave entrance, ostrich plume hydroid (tiny sea anemone-like colony of animals) and coralline algae, tiny blue ‘top snail’ and two lined chitons (mollusks with eight plates).  Tomorrow we will start our monitoring ans maybe go back to Jewel cave, so stay tuned.

Filed under: Farallon Islands,Intertidal Research — rebecca @ 6:56 pm
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