Monday, 22 March 2010

Ed and Sam help students monitor marine life.

Sam and I went out with local High School students to help with the sanctuary’s environmental monitoring and education program, LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring and Experimental Training for Students) that studies local beaches and rocky shores. We helped the students collect data on the abundance of specific plants and animals at study sites along the coast. We learned that every year about 3,500 students participate in this program that is a project of three of the California sanctuaries: Gulf of the Farallones, Monterey Bay and Channel Islands. Wow that's a lot of students.

At a sandy beach site – we counted, measured and determined the sex of sand crabs (Emerita analoga) found along our transect.

The trasect was a line made straight down the beach which the students studied for crabs. This is a good scientific technique to study an animal where the whole beach is its habitat. This can be repeated on different parts of the beach.
Every crab that we measured was carefully put back afterwards. Sand crabs are an important species in sandy beaches as they are the main food source for many shore birds and near shore fishes, so they are a good animal to monitor – if they are doing well, then probably the animals that feed on them are doing well also.

At rocky intertidal sites, we recorded about twenty types of organisms in quadrats at rocky shore sites. The quadrats are special squares that can be laid over the rocks and all the animals and plants present can be counted and recorded.
One of the species we recorded was this sunburst anemone

The students sample the same area each time they come out to see how the distribution and abundance of plants and animals change from season to season and year to year.

Sanctuary managers use this information to help protect the sanctuary. For example, in November of 2007, a large container ship; the Cosco Busan, ran into a bridge support and spilled oil into San Francisco Bay. Some of the oil went out into the sanctuary. Sanctuary staff were able to use the data from LiMPETS to compare the abundance and distribution of species before and after the spill. This helped them know which areas might need the most help to recover from the spill. So the students get to learn some fascinating stuff about marine wildlife and the sanctuary benefits from their studies too.

I really enjoyed helping the students monitoring the beach and finding out about the types of animal that live in the sand and rock pools.

Off to our next destination soon, but Sam is keeping it a secret. I wonder where we will travel too next?

Bye for now Ed

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