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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hello and welcome to the Rocky Shore Partnership Blog!
This space will normally be used to track the adventures in education and scientific monitoring by volunteer Rocky Shore Naturalists. We work out in the intertidal at Duxbury Reef in Bolinas, CA. Our efforts are a partnership between the California Academy of Sciences (Academy) and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (Sanctuary). This exciting collaboration teams Academy educators, scientists with their colleagues at the Sanctuary to train, educate and work with volunteers (Academy docents, Sanctuary and community volunteers). Our goal is to better understand and protect the intertidal life at Duxbury Reef through education and scientific monitoring.
This week part of our team is working together on a the Sanctuary’s long-term (16 years) intertidal monitoring program at the Farallon Islands. We left San Francisco yesterday (November 11th) and will start our work this afternoon. Our team is made up of Jan Roletto, (Sanctuary Research Coordinator ), Carol Preston (Sanctuary Education Coordinator), Rebecca Johnson (I work at the Academy and coordinate our partnership…and I keep this blog) and Scott Kimura (Tenera Environmental).
Thanks for visiting our site….stay tuned for more….