• Seashore&Sealife:Upcoming Exhibit
  • Earth Day 2001 Wrap Up
  • Science Explorer's Club
  • Volunteer Training
  • Musings On Membership
  • Extended Museum Hours

Summer Edition 2001

The Seashore: Life in the Waves, Wind and Tides
Upcoming Exhibit at The Natural History Museum

Earth is unique within our solar system, perhaps within the Universe. It is the Water Planet. Oceans cover about 70% of the earth's surface - 60% of the Northern Hemisphere and 80% of the Southern Hemisphere. The United States alone has approximately 90,000 miles of coastline; the world, probably over a million. The seashore, where the land and ocean meet, is beautiful and mysterious. Here the drama of the sea and its life comes into focus. Shores are rich in plant and animal life, and here important geologic changes take place.

All ecosystems include both biological elements and the physical environment. Plants, animals, and microbes comprise the biological parts. The physical elements are the geology, topography, available water, weather, and seasons. Marine environments are also powerfully influenced by the ocean's tides, waves, and currents. Within the ecosystem of the seashore, these elements determine the relationship between ocean and land, and where each species of plant and animal finds a home.

Twice a day the ocean's tides raise and lower the water line. Plants such as the sea palm (an algae), and animals such as mussels (a bivalve) and barnacles (a crustacean) must be able to withstand being alternately dry and immersed. Animals such as crabs can move to find shelter in the rocks or tide pools; clams and worms bury themselves in the sand. Larger animals such as birds and mammals are able to avoid the waves and tides and can be found above the water line or beyond the waves in the deeper water.Birds like the Snowy Plover nest in the dunes and feed at the water's edge, otters can found playing and feeding in the calmer waters of the kelp beds. Dolphins and porpoises will sometimes come in to the surf to play and to hunt the fish found near the shore. Fish need to stay in the deeper water but sometimes can be found trapped in tide pools.

The seashore may include rocky cliffs, bluffs, tide pools, dunes, sandy beaches, bays and estuaries. On the Central Coast, we have all of these types of shoreline. There are long stretches of sandy beaches and dunes such as those found at Pismo, Grover Beach and Morro Bay; rocky shores, bluffs, cliffs and tide pools at Point Sal, Shell Beach, and Montano de Oro; and at Morro Bay, a classic example of an estuary.

Humans impact the seashore ecosystem; our actions can have far reaching effects on the environment, both for good and for bad. It is important for us to understand this and to act responsibly, with care, to ensure that the precious resources we share with our neighboring creatures are preserved for generations to come.

Let's consider the previously mentioned Snowy Plover. It is now one of the rarest species, although at one time it was common along the Central Coast and elsewhere. Newly hatched Snowy Plovers are black-spotted balls of fluff, looking much like the sandy areas they inhabit. Within hours of hatching, the babies are running after their parents (actually, it is the male who raises the young), looking for food. Although this adaptation is useful in escaping predators and preventing entire broods from being wiped out at once, these little birds' numbers have so drastically declined that they are now a threatened species protected by the Endangered Species Act.

We are fortunate to have so many places in our area to observe the interaction of land and sea, to observe the plants and animals of the seashore, and to learn something new about our world.... or just take a quiet walk and listen to the waves of the Water Planet

References: H. Zim and L. Ingle, Seashores; S. Hinton, Seashore Life of Southern California; J. Hedgpeth and S. Hinton, Common Seashore Life.


New Exhibit Under Development


Thanks to a generous grant from the Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund (CREF), The Natural History Museum is planning to design and installation of a new exhibit "Seashore and Sealife", to open in the year 2002. Working with the design team "Design Ideas", a large and educational aquarium will be on display at the museum. Featuring marine life and topographical recreations of our area, our new exhibit will be an opportunity to learn about local coastline and the creatures that call it home. Please give us a call at the museum if you have any ideas you could share with us about the exhibit. Special thank you to Roger Overstreet who helped us writing this article and Margaret Furumo who assisted in editing.

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