Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tide Pool Etiquette - Part 1

If you’ve ever been to the Puget Sound Saltwater Tide Pool at Pacific Science Center, you know the first thing you must do to touch anything is rinse your hands. Now why do you think we have to rinse our hands?

Most aquariums with touch tanks don’t ask visitors to do this! However, most aquariums, including the Seattle Aquarium, have a different filtration system than we do. Many waterfront aquariums use filtered seawater, drawing the water up from a nearby source, cycling it through their systems, and returning it to the source after treating it to destroy any possible contaminants. But at Pacific Science Center, our water is continually recirculated within the tide pool and two filtration vats. Imagine getting soap into the water! The soap would circulate through the tide pool which would be very unfortunate for our animals; this would also apply to other substances! Sunscreen, lotions and even metals can harm the animals. Not only do our visitors rinse their hands, our staff does too. We try to keep our water as free of foreign products as possible.

People don’t always think about sea creatures as living animals. For instance, sea anemones look like plants. We often think of plants as a pretty little object we could carry around, we can’t do that with sea anemones. Our animals need water to live so their habitats are perfect the way they are! Furthermore, it is best to only touch an animal gently instead of trying to pick it up and take it home.

With a good understanding of the Puget Sound Saltwater Tide Pool habitat, we can next discuss the proper way to handle our critters. Watch this space for a future article!

Nancy, the author of this article, is a Volunteer and a Discovery Corps Internship Graduate. In August she reported on the Tide Pool Guide.

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