Visit the web pages for Scripps Institution of Oceanography, its Birch Aquarium, the UC Natural Reserve System, or the excellent How To Be A Marine Biologist in Dr. Latz's Lab.
Also visitor groups to Birch Aquarium should contact the most helpful Anna McColl. whose e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
Isabelle shows us how she studies life below the sand.
Welcome to Scripps Coastal Reserve
by Isabelle Kay, Susan Wynn, and Robin MacLean
Welcome to the Scripps Shoreline, a portion of the University of California Scripps Coastal Reserve. The Reserve includes the intertidal zone and the waters out 1000 feet all the way along in front of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. It starts in front of the lifeguard tower to the south, and extends to the landslide on the beach to the north. The reserve also includes a bluff-top area (the Knoll) and Black's canyon, which are also open to the walking public.
This shoreline has been protected since 1929 for scientific research and teaching. It was included in the California state-wide Natural Reserve System in 1965, and was designated the San Diego Marine Life Refuge by the state in 1957. This means that the following regulations of the State Separtment of Fish and Game apply: No animals or plant material may be removed, by the public, from the area without a collecting permit from the Natural Reserve System, except for fish. Fishing is allowed only with a current California State Fishing License (and no invertebrates may be used as bait).
Here you can experience and enjoy the dramatic sandstone cliffs, the sandy beach, the rocky tidepool area, and the Pacific Ocean!
The cliffs are of sandstone which is constantly eroding. The rate has increased in some areas due to excess water from the community on the bluff-top, which seeps down and emerges from impermeable layers. You can probably see dark stains on the cliffs, even in the middle of a dry summer.
The area that the waters cover and reveal with changing tides is the intertidal zone. This zone is constantly changing as the ocean waters move up and down with the waves, the tides, and storm swells. Beach sand is carried onto or off the shore with the waves, and along the coast with the currents. Summer waves, which have a long distance (or period) from one peak to the next, tend to carry sand onto the shore. Winter waves, with short periods and high energy, tend to scour the beach down to the heavier cobbles.
Along the southern California coast there are two high and two low tides each day. The greatest variation between the high and low tide occurs during the fall and new phases of the moon. At high tide the waves lap at the cliffs, and at low tide almost the entire intertidal zone is revealed. What you can see of the intertidal zone, therefore, depends upon the time of day and the season.
If you are here for low tide, the sand beach near the pier will be exposed. This is where you can often see "shore birds" foraging for small animals in the sand and seaweed: willets, godwits, whimbrels, and sanderlings may be hunting for "sand fleas" and isopods, both related to crabs, or small clams.
If the tide is low enough you may be able to see some intertidal animals and plants that have colonized the pier pilings. These include several species of barnacles and mussels.
As you survey the various environments you may find a Brown Pelican diving into the water to catch its next meal, a raven, Redtailed Hawk or Pigeon Hawk resting on the cliffs or a gull waiting on the beach for an unattended bag of potato chips. Birds that swim underneath the surface, several species of cormorants and grebes, can be seen as they come up for a breath of air.
Further north you'll find a rocky area which, at low tide, presents a pleasant place to search the tidepools and find our more about marine life. Because of the close contact this area allows it is very susceptible to being harmed and requires your kind treatment to survive. Barnacles, mussels, limpets, chitons, hermit crabs, and anemones are easily seen in the upper intertidal. Lower you may find sea stars, gooseneck barnacles, and if you're very lucky, maybe even a nudibranch!
Please do not force any of the animals to let go of their homes; if they are not easy to pick up, don't try any further. If you wish to look closely at the animals which are easy to pick off the rocks or out of the sand, please keep them wet in a bucket, or leave them in their tidepool while you look. Afterwards, return them to the exact spot where you found them.
If getting wet in the tidepools isn't for you, Scripps Aquarium allows visitors to get close and personal with a wide variety of marine life. Here you can see tidepool animals as well as kelp, big and small fish and invertebrates from around the world, educational exhibits, and visit the gift store and well-stocked bookstore.
The Biodiversity Trail at the Knoll leads the visitor through coastal chaparral and offers an exciting view of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding area.