A Day in the Life: Reflections in the Tidepools

A Day in the Life: Reflections in the Tidepools

By Mona Feliz, TPERP VIP

Saturday was a really pretty, sunny day, not too warm…a GREAT day for tidepooling. Low tide was about 12:30pm, so the shift started at 10:30am. There is generally a two-hour window before and after the low tide for good exposure of the tidepools.

No matter how many times I volunteer in the tidepools, it is never the same. Every day is a new discovery, or an old discovery made new through the eyes of a visitor. Today I met a couple from Colorado who had never been to the ocean before. Can you imagine…they had never felt the ocean on their legs. She didn’t like it too much…the water stung her skin. He was like a little kid, jumping from one incredible find to another. He found a baby octopus. Then he found a small sea hare. He didn’t know what it was, so I explained. He crawled over rocks and shuffled through sea grass looking for sea stars.

A father had brought his son and daughter on an outing. They wanted to see sea stars. I said, “I’m sorry, I haven’t seen any yet. But if you look on the lower half of the large boulders and even behind the vegetation, maybe you will find one. And, if you do, please let me know.”

A group of young adults didn’t know what they wanted to see…they just wanted to see “stuff”. I showed them a Keyhole Limpet climbing up out of the water on the side of the cliff. I showed them Sand Castle Worms. They found many Hermit Crabs.

VIP Mona
TPERP VIP Mona Feliz engages visitors through informal interpretation at the tidepools

Two men came past me with a determined look in their eyes. One man took an acrylic apparatus out of his pocket that is used for catching and observing sea life. I said, “I’m sorry, sir, but you cannot entrap any of the sea life at Cabrillo. This is a marine preserve and all the sea life, as well as the shells, rocks, sand and water, are protected by Federal law. The reason is that even a few minutes out of their habitat can traumatize these creatures, which could be fatal to them.” He was after a Rosy Nudibranch that he had spotted. A Rosy looks like a feather boa that your grandmother or great-grandmother might have worn, just a lot smaller. I thought, “How odd that he feels he needs to trap it.” I had just spent about 10 minutes watching the very same Rosy. It was totally visible in a small pool with no rocks.

A family came with young children armed with buckets and shovels. I showed them small serpent stars buried in the sand and explained that creatures like these were why we didn’t allow buckets and shovels in the tidepools. Digging in the sand with a shovel could potentially harm lots of tiny sea life or their habitat.

Some teenagers were throwing rocks, so I showed them a rock full of holes with tiny shells in the holes, and then explained that the rock was their home. I also told them about other critters that use the rocks for protection or who eat microscopic plant life that grows on the rocks. I said, “How would you like your lunch thrown miles away?”

People aren’t always receptive to learning about the guidelines for responsible tidepooling. I observed one man putting shells in his pockets, so I went over to him and explained why shells can’t be removed… just in case he had missed the 5-foot tall sign at the top of the stairs. He said that his daughter wanted a souvenir. How can getting a souvenir be more important than protecting this uniquely magical place? Is a souvenir worth the cost of teaching your children to ignore the rules of society established for the good of all people? I left him with my usual request: “Please take nothing but pictures and memories.”

I don’t get too bothered by people who are rude or uncooperative. For every one of them there are a hundred people who are so pleasant to talk to. Today, four different groups of people stopped and thanked me for volunteering. Wow! How nice.

As the tide came back in, the ocean again claimed the tidepools…at least for the next twelve hours. As I climbed up out of the tidepools, I reflected on the day’s experiences. I met many nice people today. I saw a really cool sea hare and a very active Rosy. I educated a few people on the need to preserve this magical place.

Yes, it was a GREAT day for tidepooling.

Last revised 12-Aug-13