As a part of my final independent project, I went out into the field to count crabs in the intertidal zone at low tide. This was my first time designing my own sampling plan for field work, and I have compiled a list of tips that I could have used before going out. Here are my top 5 things to know before heading out into the field:
- Talk to someone about your sampling plan before going out: This is the #1 way to make sure your ideas are not completely wild ambitious. It is incredibly easy to develop a grand sampling plan in your head, but when it comes time to realize it, you would rather have someone point out your flaws when you have time to change it rather than when you are halfway through sampling, soaking in the rain, and ankle-deep in mud.
- Bring a friend to come sampling with you: Choose someone that you trust to take data accurately, and that will respect your desire to sampling thoroughly. If nothing else, they can write down the results while you do the sampling. A great way to entice someone into the field with you is by offering them something small in return, like baked goods or reciprocated help for their project.
- Dress for the weather: Taking accurate and thorough data is easier when your fingers are not numb, and rain is not soaking through every single layer of clothing. If you find yourself wishing you were somewhere else, chances are you are settling on your sampling design and the quality of your data. Remember that the beach is always chillier than when you open your front door to check the weather, so layer up!
- Scope out your sampling site beforehand: Make sure you know what kind of data you want to collect. For example, if you need to flip over rocks to count organisms, maybe don’t choose a sandy beach. If you need to count a sensitive organism, choose a beach that is less-frequented by the public. If you can’t visit the beach before sampling, talk to someone that has!
- Check the tide tables: Nothing is worse than showing up for sampling at high tide. Check your local tide tables, and make sure you give yourself enough time on either side of low tide to get all of your work done. Remember that if low tide is at 9:20, the tide will start coming back in at 9:21, so feel free to start your work before the low tide mark because the tide will still be going out.
I hope these tips help both intertidal scientists and hobbyists alike. For more information on the intertidal zone, check out this great video by Untamed Science: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u64ppKBY3cM.