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Rocky Shore 

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 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

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.

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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

Morning Day Two-12 November 2009

The low tides are in the afternoon this week, so we spent our morning on a steep granite hillside helping the refuge management get rid of the invasive New Zealand Spinach.  The spinach is a non-native plant that competes with the native Farallon weed (with yellow blooms above). The hundreds of thousands of seabirds that breed on the Farallones use the endemic (found only here) Farallon weed as nesting material.  The roots of the spinach hold on to more soil than the native plants and compact the soil, making it harder for seabirds, that lay their eggs in burrows.  We climbed as high as we could and enjoyed the spectacular views.

Filed under: Farallon Islands,Natural History,Uncategorized — rebecca @ 1:00 pm

November 12, 2009

Day One-11 November 2009


We met up at 5:15 AM  to pack the he Sanctuary ‘Shark Van’ to the gills with all of our gear, food, cameras and computers.    We we lucky to get a lift on the Outer Limits, a while watching boat,  around 6:30AM from Sausalito.  We stopped to pick up some whale watchers from San Francisco and we were on our way.    All  of the sudden there we were, at the Farallon Islands, only 28 miles form San Francisco, in the 415, but at the same time a million miles from anywhere.

Getting onto the island is no easy feat.    The island is a Wildlife Refuge and access is very limited…only 8 people are allowed on the island at any given time.   You can see Carol and Scott after we had made the landing and climbed a huge wet stair case with our gear.  The rest of our gear had a harder trip to the East Landing, as you can see below.  We will be staying in one of two houses on the island, formerly occupied by the lighthouse keepers and their families.


Filed under: Farallon Islands,Intertidal Research — rebecca @ 10:35 pm

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