A few weeks ago team members Tessa and Brooke went on a tide-pooling trip to Pillar Point Harbor with the goal of increasing the invertebrate population of the Academy’s penguin pool. Pillar Point Harbor is a protected harbor along the San Mateo County California Coast at the very northern edge of Half Moon Bay. It was a beautiful day and we had a great time!
We were also very successful and brought back 31 purple urchins Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and 50 ochre stars Pisaster ochraceus for the exhibit. Below is a picture of Tessa using a spoon to gently remove urchins:
Tide-pools are areas of the coastline that are covered and then uncovered with seawater each day by the high and low tides. Exploring tide-pools is a great way to see an incredible variety of organisms but it’s important to remember that these are very delicate ecosystems which can be easily damaged by human activity. When tide-pooling it’s imperative to look but not touch in order to avoid disturbing marine life. Please note that the Academy collects only under a Department of Fish and Game permit; we also have the expertise to safely remove, transport, house and care for any animals we gather.
Below is a picture of Tessa and Brooke with some of the ochre stars they collected:
Note the sea palms Postelsia palmaeformis growing on the rocks in the background. This is a type of kelp and is one of only a few types of algae that’s able to survive and remain erect out of water. We were thrilled to see this protected species thriving in its native habitat.
It was a long, exciting day that was well worth the effort. Aside from adding a dynamic visual element to the penguin display the invertebrates we gathered have a functional role. The sea stars will consume fish that are dropped by penguins during feeding time and the urchins are great algae eaters. In addition to what we collected, that same week we added 15 farm-raised red abalone Haliotis rufescens. The abalone need larger types of algae than what grows naturally in the exhibit so during weekly maintenance dives (usually performed on Thursday afternoons) check out the under-water camera and you may see each one of them being offered a piece of macroalgae by hand.
All in all, quite an exciting time on the invertebrate front!