The (very) Wet Coast of North America: Appreciating Intertidal Diversity!

Back in October, our class got the chance to head out to the wet and wild coast and spend some time in the intertidal in Bamfield, British Columbia.

The intertidal zone is some of the coolest real estate in the Pacific Northwest! There are some amazingly cool animals (and algae!) in the intertidal. The intertidal is the area of a shore that is underwater at high tide and above water at low tide. Because of the varying environment of the intertidal, a wide variety of species can live here. But, they also need to be able to tolerate the rough and variable waves and weather.

Our class exploring Brady's Beach  (Photo: Allison Dennert)

Our class exploring Brady’s Beach

On our trip to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre (BMSC), we spent a morning at Brady’s Beach. Brady’s Beach is a popular spot for visitors to Bamfield. It’s also a popular spot for biodiversity! It’s got huge numbers of snails, sea slugs, crabs, algae, fishes, and the occasional bird.

Here's a picture of some ochre stars with sea lettuce! (Photo: Allison Dennert)

Here’s a picture of some ochre stars, sea lettuce, rockweed, and some aggregating anemones! How many species do you see?

At low tide, a lot of the things that live in the intertidal reside in tide pools. These tide pools are rife with diversity if you just take the time to bend down and look. At high tide, these pools disappear, and their inhabitants are once again free to spend their time in the water column. Imagine being trapped in a kiddie pool twice a day for the rest of your days. Rough life!

In order to explore the intertidal, we were given a scavenger hunt to help us appreciate the vast amount of life out on the coast.

Some items on our list included:

  • a seaweed that can be used as an exfoliant (Answer: Turkish towel, a red alga)
  • an animal that can photosynthesize (Answer: The giant green sea anemone. It has symbiotic algae living in its tentacles!)
  • a puppet made from a bull kelp bladder
A puppet made from bull kelp  (Photo: Allison Dennert)

A puppet made from bull kelp

After we explored the beach on our scavenger hunt, we took some time to appreciate the place we found ourselves in. We are so lucky to have such vast amounts of diversity at our doorstep. The Pacific Northwest is the perfect place to study the diversity of intertidal animals (and algae, too!). It makes me so appreciative of the scientific opportunities available to us at UBC!

A view from a sea stack at Brady's beach in May 2014  (Photo: Allison Dennert)

The view from a sea stack at Brady’s beach in May 2014

A rainbow appeared just as we were leaving the beach. How beautiful!  (Photo: Allison Dennert)

A rainbow appeared just as we were leaving the beach. How beautiful!

Bamfield truly is a beautiful place, and although we did get a bit wet, it was a fantastic way to spend a weekend!

In case you’re interested BMSC offers summer and fall courses to university students, and they also have an amazing public education program that’s perfect for school field trips. Head over to their website for more information.

http://www.bms.bc.ca/

If you’re interested in biodiversity, come visit the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC’s Vancouver campus!

http://www.beatymuseum.ubc.ca/

(Photos: Allison Dennert)

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