Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tide Pool Collecting Trip

Pacific Science Center’s Alternative Service policy requires full time staff members to work 40 hours per year in a department other than their own. This policy creates a sense of camaraderie, helps staff members understand each other’s work better, and helps our programs accomplish occasional tasks where a few extra hands are needed. Thus a day at the beach brought in Brigid and Portia, who normally work with our youth volunteers in the Discovery Corps, and Chris and Meredith from our camps’ program. Youth and Family Programs manager Meredith Braud spends much of her time making sure our Camp-ins and vacation and summer camps are dynamic, fun, and trouble-free. But on Wednesday April 20, she got to have a totally different experience. Here is her story.

I was lucky enough to be included in a tide pool collecting excursion for PSC’s Salt Water Tide Pool recently. Having grown up in Louisiana, the tide pools of the Pacific Northwest are still a marvel to me. Most of the coastal waters of the Mississippi delta are muddy and brown, and exotic creatures may dwell there but are masked so well…

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I came prepared in my best rubber boots. Not wanting anyone to know what a tide pool novice I was, I didn’t readily admit that I had absolutely no clue what we were looking for. I just followed Brianna Todd, Lead Animal Caretaker, and watched as she culled through the rocks exposed by low tide on the beach in Indianola. She found a caramel colored anemone about an inch wide and put it in my bucket. And then I saw another coworker, Brigid, find a beautiful red and green Christmas anemone about the size of a tennis ball, and I was hooked!

How abundant those rocks were in life forms that I hardly would have noticed before this trip! We found hermit crabs and sea snails, anemones of several species, mussels, a little shrimp (he is very cute!), and several other animals that I could neither pronounce or find (they were camouflaged well on those wet rocks). I was most enamored of the anemones with their gooey outsides and tentacled insides that sometimes popped outside.

We also saw lots of creatures that were quite notable, though they were not invited to take up residence at PSC’s Tide Pool. There were some sun stars fish (what brilliant colors!), and some regular sea stars, some of which were as big as my golden retriever puppy. I never knew a sea star could get that big! And the most amazing creature that coworker Chris discovered was a red octopus. His body was about 6-8 inches long when it was spread out and slimy, but he was able to bunch all of his slimy self together and sort of fling his body forward to move toward the water. That little octopus was really fun to watch.

All in all ,the trip was a success! We found some creatures that have a nice new home here with us where they are safe from the ravenous sea stars of the world. Of course, I would have thought it a success anyway. I certainly learned a lot, and I hope to go “collecting” again sometime!

We hope that Meredith’s experience inspires you to visit our Puget Sound Salt Water Tide Pool and meet the animals she brought back. You can also visit the animals that didn’t get collected by visiting a beach at low tide. Please visit respectfully. Touching sea anemones, stars, shells and other tide pool creatures will not harm them, but moving them or the rocks they live on and around can be very harmful to them. Sea mammals, such as seals, and animals that normally swim freely, such as octopus and jellyfish should not be touched. Jellyfish and octopus may contain toxins that absorb through the skin, and all wild mammals are protected by law and must strictly be left alone.

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