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Orange County Tidepool Docent/Educator
Training Manual
And it is a strange thing that most of the feeling we call
religious, most of the mystical out crying which is one of the
most prized and used and desired reactions of our species, is
really the understanding and the attempt to say that man is
related to the whole thing, related inextricably to all reality,
known and unknowable…It is advisable to look from the
tidepool to the stars and then back to the tidepool again.
John Steinbeck
The Log of the Sea of Cortez (1951)
Edited by: Jeff Rosaler
! About Tidepool Interpretive Programs and this Training Manual.………………..………1
! Background OCMPAC…………...……………………………………………………….1
! Tidepool Docent/Educator Manager Contact List…………….…………..………………2
! Orange County Tidepool Interpretive Programs……..…………………………...……….2
Rocky Intertidal Ecosystems
! Tides……………………………………………………………………………………….4
! Geology……………………………………………………………………………………5
! Wave Exposure…………………………………………………………………………....6
! Intertidal Zones……………………………………………………………………………7
! Desiccation, Temperature and Salinity……………………………………………………8
! Microhabitats…………………………………………………………………..……….....9
! Ecological Principals…………………………………………………………………….10
! Common Organisms……………………………………………………………………..10
Resource Interpretation
! Interpretation Principals 101………………………………...…………………………...16
! Interpreting Tips………………………………………………………………………….17
! Conservation Efforts……………………………………………………………………..18
! “Good Tidepooler Rules”……………………………………………..............................18
! Intercepting Tips………………………………………………………………………....19
! Enforcement……………………………………………………………………………...21
! Interpretation Principals 201……………………………………………………………..22
! Useful Spanish Phrases and Names......………………………………………………….25
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
! Definition………………………………………………………………………………...26
! Benefits of Marine Protected Areas……………………………………………………...26
! Local Marine Protected Areas…………………………………………………………...27
Frequently Asked Questions
! FAQs…………………………………………………………………………………..…29
Additional Resources and References Cited
! Books………………………………………………………………………….…………31
! Websites……………………………………………………………………….…………31
About Tidepool Interpretive Programs and this Training Manual
The Orange County Marine Protected Areas Committee is actively engaged in the conservation
of Orange County’s tidepools. Conservation requires the cooperation of various disciplines
including enforcement, scientific research, and resource management, but most importantly
conservation requires education.
The tidepools in Orange County have been used as a living classroom for over a 100 years and
this valuable coastal resource was once thought impermeable to human influence. In the past
several decades we have seen a degradation of this ecosystem caused primarily by human
influence. As managers of these resources, we recognize that most of the harm is done through
ignorance. It is a goal of the Committee to inform the public of the importance of this
ecosystem, emphasizing complex ecological principals while teaching low impact exploration
techniques and the “good tidepooling rules.” Throughout the County, volunteer docents and paid
educators have been used by non-profits, city and state agencies to help educate the general
public about Orange County tidepools. These programs, collectively referred to as tidepool
interpretive programs, have similar goals; to provide onsite education to the general public;
inform visitors about the organisms, ecology and necessary protection of the valuable intertidal
resources; and to increase awareness of the needed conservation of this ecosystem.
This training manual will give you the tools and knowledge required to meet these goals, while
sharing your passion for the tidepools. The manual will provide you the docent/educator with
background information on the intertidal habitat and common intertidal organisms. It will also
provide some insight on approaching the public in a friendly professional manner, while
providing effective tidepool resource interpretation. Conservation efforts through the “good
tidepooler rules” will be covered in detail, as well as the State and City ordinances that make
these areas MPAs. A brief description of each program in the County will be provided and the
contact information for the interpretive program representative for that area. The manual ends
with a section of frequently asked questions and some references that can be used to gain more
valuable information to help you become the expert in the field.
Background of the Orange County Marine Protected Area Committee
The Orange County Marine Protected Area Committee (OCMPAC) is a collaboration of city and
county officials, institutional representatives, academic faculty and nonprofit organizational
members. Our goal is to provide comprehensive management of the Orange County Marine
Protected Areas through communication and cooperation of the various agencies, and setting the
model for localized implementation of marine conservation efforts. Current members include;
City of Newport Beach, City of Laguna Beach, City of Dana Point, California State Parks,
Orange County Parks, California State University Fullerton, MBC Applied Sciences, Laguna
Ocean Foundation and the Ocean Institute. To find out more visit:
Tidepool Docent/Educator Managers Contact Information
City of Newport Beach
Crystal Cove State Park
City of Laguna Beach
Ocean Institute
Laguna Ocean Foundation
City of Dana Point
Marine Life
Refuge Supervisor
State Parks
Marine Protection
Tidewater Docent
Natural Resources
Protection Officer
Michelle Clemente
Winter Bonnin
Calla Allison
Karen Lloreda
Art Smart
Jeff Rosaler
Tidepool Interpretive Programs
Each interpretive program is slightly different and a separate handout for program logistics shall
accompany this manual, made available from the program contact. After the initial training, an
additional on-site training will be scheduled for all new volunteers/staff at the site you wish to
docent at. We welcome volunteers to become active in multiple programs. We feel this will
enhance both the volunteer experience, as well as enhance the programs at all sites by sharing
ideas and interpretation techniques. If you do volunteer/docent in more than one area, please be
sure to attend a follow up training at all the sites you choose to volunteer at.
Information on program logistics will include; where to go, where to park, what equipment you
need, where to pick up equipment and backpacks, what to wear, personal safety in the tidepools,
how to set up/break down the program, and who to contact in case of enforcement or emergency
The Different Programs
Newport Beach – Little Corona (Robert E. Badham State Marine Conservation Area)
The City of Newport Beach runs a professional Tidepool Education program
at the Robert E. Badham Conservation Area. These Educators are paid City
staff that do both resource interpretation for the general public and teach
school group field trips. The City is currently expanding this program to
include volunteers.
Crystal Cove State Park – (Irvine Coast State Marine Conservation Area)
The Crystal Cove Tidepool Monitor and Docent program allows volunteers to
walk and explore the 3.5 miles of coastline of Crystal Cove State Park, while
contacting and sharing information concerning the local tidepool organisms
and ecology.
Laguna Beach – Bird Rock (Heisler Park State Marine Reserve)
The City of Laguna Beach currently has Tidepool Educators to assist the
Marine Life Protection Officer with school field trip programs. These tours
are approximately 3 hours long and Educators lead small groups of children
on an interpretive tour of the tidepools primarily at Bird Rock.
Laguna Ocean Foundation – Treasure Island, Bird Rock (Heisler Park State Marine Reserve
and Laguna Beach State Marine Conservation Area)
The Laguna Ocean Foundation is a non-profit organization in the City of
Laguna Beach that offers two tidepool interpretive programs. The
Tidewater Docent program is a volunteer interpretive program that
contacts the general public at Heisler Park and various other coves
throughout Laguna Beach. The Tidepool Educator program is a
professional program at Treasure Island where Educators or onsite up to
2100 hours a year.
Dana Point – Headlands (Dana Point State Marine Conservation Area)
The City of Dana Point and the Ocean
Institute have recently joined forces to
offer the Dana Point Tidepool Interpretive
Program. The program consists of Ocean
Institute volunteers participating in a program facilitated in coordination with
the City of Dana Point. The program will initially focus on the rocky intertidal
area north of the Institute in the Dana Point Conservation Area.
Doheny State Beach – (Doheny Beach State Marine Conservation Area)
The Doheny Interpretive Association has begun to train volunteers to help the
public understand the resources of the rocky intertidal areas at Doheny that
become highly accessible during low tides.
Although a detailed description of the complexity and mechanics of tides can not be covered in
this manual, it is essential to understand the basic principals of tidal changes as they directly
influence the distribution of intertidal marine organisms. The key forces that act to create tidal
variations are the gravitational and centrifugal forces at work between the earth, moon and sun
(Ricketts et al 1985).
Gravitation is the attraction between two masses and is influenced by both the size and the
distance between the two masses. Our moon has the greatest effect on tidal changes due to its
close proximity to earth. The moon’s gravitational pull causes the water on the earth’s surface
directly opposite the moon to “bulge” away from the earth (Niesen 1982). Centrifugal forces,
caused by the spinning motion of the two masses, either keep masses separate or push them
apart. On earth, the centrifugal force from the rotation is equal everywhere in magnitude and the
direction of the force is away from the moon. Centrifugal forces therefore cause the water on the
earth’s surface farthest away from the moon to also “bulge.”
When the earth revolves around its axis, every spot on the planet will experience both types of
“bulges” during a full lunar day (twenty four hours, 50 minutes) rotation. The 50 minute
addition to a full rotation is due to the moon’s orbit around the earth. If the moon was the only
mass influencing tides, each spot on the planet would experience two high tides of equal
magnitude and two low tides of equal magnitude every lunar day (24 hours and 50 minutes).
However the sun has an important modifying effect on our system (Niesen 1982).
The moon orbits the earth once every 27.5 days; during this orbit the moon is in a different
position in relation to the sun every day. When the sun, moon and earth are in a direct line with
each other, and the moon is new or full, the combined forces cause our most extreme tides.
These extreme tides create our lowest lows and our highest highs and are referred to as “spring
tides” (which has nothing to do with the time of year, but is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word
“to jump”). When the earth, sun and moon are at right angles to each other and the moon is in
the first quarter or third quarter, the suns gravitational pull works to minimize the moon’s force
and the result is tides of a minimum range referred to as “neap tides”.
There is considerable variation in tidal height and frequency in different geographic locations.
The location, shape of the ocean basin, and a host of other local factors create modifications to
tidal changes around the globe. In southern California we experience a mixed semi-diurnal tide
which consists of two unequal high tides every day and two unequal low tides every day. The
time of these highs and lows change by about 53 minutes every day.
Geology (Substrate)
Tidepools occur where the sea meets the land and rocky substrate is available for marine species
to create communities. The type of communities and organisms found can depend on the type
and quality of the rocky substrate. It is important to have a general understanding of the rocks
that provide suitable habitat for organisms to exist in tidal influenced areas. In Orange County
three geological formations exist at the interface of land and sea that help compose the tidepools
in our MPAs; San Onofre Breccia, Monterey and Capistrano.
The study of rock layers is done at a local level and then joined with information from
surrounding areas to get a complete geological picture. The finest level of geologic rock division
is called a formation and describes rock units exposed at local rock outcrops. A formation is a
distinctive series of strata that originated through the same geological process. Formations
provide a mapable rock unit that has definitive boundaries in its abundance and certain
characteristics by which it may be identified from place to place. Formations names generally
consist of two parts, for example San Onofre Breccia. San Onofre is the locale where the
formation was first described or is most completely exposed and Breccia indicates the dominant
rock type in the formation (Tarbuck and Lutgens 1996).
San Onofre Breccia formation
This formation is unique to
Orange County with the
exception of a few
locations on the Channel
Islands. The dominant rock
type is breccia, which is
described as a sedimentary
rock composed of angular
fragments that were
lithified. The breccia
consists of a conglomerate
of sandstone and mudstone
that contains clasts of
harder metamorphic rocks
such as, dacite, porphyry,
quartzite, amphibolite and
Shist (Boles and Landry
1997). When eroded from
wave and weather exposure the softer sedimentary layers erode, leaving the harder metamorphic
conglomerate to provide pools and substrate for intertidal organisms. This breccia formation can
also create huge boulder fields such as Dana Point when the cliffs erode and the metamorphic
rocks pile up in the intertidal zone.
Orange County intertidal areas composed of San Onofre Breccia formation
Dana Point
Laguna Beach
Monterey formation
The Monterey formation is
seen throughout California
and is characterized by the
layering of thinly bedded
siltstone and sandstone.
Based on foraminifera
identification the Monterey
formation of Orange County
was deposited in a shelf
environment that deepened to
outer shelf (Boles and Landry
1997). The layering provides
ample microhabitats for
intertidal colonization, and
the erosion of softer portions
of the formation can create
tidal pools.
Orange County intertidal areas composed of the Monterrey formation
Crystal Cove
Corona Del Mar
Wave Exposure
Besides tides, the physical factor that has the most dramatic
effect on the distribution of intertidal plants and animals is the
effect of wave force. The intertidal area is the chief and final
focus of waves, bringing powerful surf crashing against the
rocks and sand. Scientist and naturalist have long classified
intertidal environments according to the wave exposure a site
will experience (Hinton 1987). These environments include:
1) Protected Outer Coast – Semi-sheltered coast,
protected by the shape of the coastline, offshore reefs or
kelp bed.
2) Open Coast – Unprotected outer coast, often
characterized by headlands (i.e. Dana Point) that
receive high wave exposure.
3) Bays and Estuaries – Enclosed bays and sloughs with
minor wave exposure (Ricketts et al 1985).
On open coasts animals and plants must withstand the impact of tons of water breaking over
them. The organisms of the open coast are characterized by hard bodies and have strong
attachment mechanisms. Many of the organisms that occur in sheltered outer coasts or bays are
not equipped to take the battering and shearing force of heavy surf. As a result more sheltered
areas are often rich in species abundance and distribution, in comparison with the neighboring
open coast habitat (Ricketts et al 1985).
Intertidal Zonation Patterns
The rocky intertidal is the
portion of a rocky coastline that
is periodically covered or
exposed by daily tidal changes.
This interface is a complex
environment where species are
well adapted to the changing
habitat conditions. Conditions
are more terrestrial higher in
the intertidal and
correspondingly more marine
in the lower intertidal area,
depending on the amount of
exposure the area receives.
This range of environmental
conditions influences the
species that are able to adapt to
changing habitat variables and these environmental conditions are in part responsible for the
unique zones within the intertidal that are highly visible by the dominant species that occur in
each area or “zone.” These dominant species create stripes that take the color and texture of the
dominant or “characteristic” organism of that zone (Niesen 1982).
The Splash Zone
The splash zone is the area above the high tide water line and mainly depends on sea spray and
mist for water coverage. The characteristic species of the splash zone are the little acorn
barnacles (Cthamalus dalli), sea lettuce (Ulva sp.) and the periwinkle snail (Littorina sp.). All
species are adapted to withstand long periods of exposure.
The High Zone
The high zone is the area of intertidal that is covered by most high tides yet is exposed to the air
for most of the day. This zone is characterized by the larger acorn barnacle (Balanus glandula),
but a large number of limpets and chitons also call this “zone” home. The red turfweed
Endocladia muricata is also common in this zone.
The Mid Zone
The mid zone is subjected to multiple emergence and submergence events throughout the day as
the tides ebb and flow. This zone is often split into several subzones including the rockweed
zone and the mussel zone. At our local sites, two species of rockweed, Silvetia compressa and
Hesperophycus californicus, are commonly observed in the higher portions of the mid intertidal
zone. These rockweeds are canopy forming seaweeds that provide shelter for a higher number of
organisms. The mussel zone is dominated by the California Sea Mussel (Mytilus californianus),
an ecosystem engineer that provides food, shelter, and living space for a diverse set of species.
Mixed in the mussel zone are sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) and the gooseneck barnacles
(Pollicipes polymerus).
The Low Zone
The low tide zone is mixed with organisms that can be found in both the intertidal and subtidal
habitats and is characterized by large red and brown fleshy algae. Several algae species are
common, but the characteristic brown algae of the low zone are the feather boa (Egregia
menziesii) and the sea palm (Eisenia arborea). The low intertidal zone provides more food,
shelter and protection from desiccation than the other intertidal zone and is therefore inhabited
by a greater number of species. Unlike the mid and high zone where physical factors play a
major role in species abundances, competition and predation play the major role in the low zone.
Desiccation, Temperature, Salinity and Zonation
Intertidal zonation is caused by
numerous factors including
temperature stress, desiccation,
salinity, wave exposure,
predation, and competition. The
pervasive theory in zonation is
that the upper tidal limits of
species are set by abiotic factors,
such as desiccation, while the
lower tidal limits are set by
biological factors, such as
predation. For example, the
upper limit of mussels is set by
its inability to deal with
desiccation stress above the mid
intertidal zone. The lower limit
of these mussels is set by
predation by the seastar as
mussels would inhabit lower in
the intertidal zone if seastars
where absent.
For an organism, the height on
the shore determines the total
amount of time it will spend
submerged in water or exposed
to air and also the maximum and
minimum time the organism will
be exposed without interruption.
It therefore makes sense that the higher a marine organism is found on the shore, the more
stressful the environment will be due to three related factors: desiccation, temperature and
salinity. Desiccation potential is the possibility of an organism drying out with exposure to arid
conditions. Intertidal position on the shore generally sets the length of exposure to conditions of
drying out which determine the desiccation stress. It is this stress that often establishes the upper
limitation an organism can have in vertical intertidal range (Ricketts et al 1985). Temperature
and salinity also have an influence on what organisms are found living within certain zones.
When submerged, organisms experience relatively consistent environmental variables, but when
exposed to air or the shallow waters of a tidepool they may be subjected to wide fluctuations in
temperature and salinity (Ricketts et al 1985).
A microhabitat is a
topographic change
in the rocky habitat
that becomes more
suitable for
organisms that are
not normally found
in a particular tide
zone due to changes
in environmental
Microhabitats exist
throughout the
intertidal habitat
and the three most
common are
tidepools, boulders
Tidepools are microcosms of marine life formed by the depression of the rocky substrate that
fills with water on an outgoing tide (Niesen 1982). These pools often provide habitat for
organisms that on bare rock could only occur much lower in vertical distribution.
Boulders create a wide range of conditions for inhabitants. The sides, tops and bottoms of a
single boulder can have a wide range of different communities. Just as in terrestrial systems the
sides of boulders are exposed to different weather conditions and therefore the same intertidal
organism might be found higher on the shadier side of a boulder. In intertidal areas of high
human use, boulders are sometimes referred to as “monk caps”, due to the bareness of the top of
the rock from humans constantly stepping here.
Channels and Crevices
Channels and crevices provide protection from desiccation and provide organisms increased time
for feeding that often reflects an increase in the vertical distribution of species.
Ecological Principals
Along with the complexity of the physical environment the interaction of organisms in the rocky
intertidal makes it a living classroom for ecology. Competition for space, adaptation and
evolution, consumption, disturbance, species versus area, and reproduction strategies are easily
studied in this complex marine environment. The ecological interactions are what make this area
come alive for visitors, by focusing on ecology facts become interpretation.
Common Intertidal Organisms (What Sea Life did you see in the Tidepools Today?)
Hermit Crab – Pagarus sp. The two Pagarus species that
are common to our tidepools are the hairy hermit crab
(Pagarus hirsutiusculus) and the blue banded hermit crab
(Pagarus samuelis). Both have a distribution range from
Alaska to Baja California. The blue banded is the most
common and as its name implies is identified by the bright
blue bands on its appendages and red antennae. Juvenile
Pagurus samuelis do not have the blue bands but still have
red antennae. Both species have a carapace up to ¾” and
often take shelter in many different types of snail shells.
Hermit crabs are scavengers, foraging on both plants and
Acorn Barnacle – Balanus glandula These barnacles
range from Alaska to southern California and dominate the
high intertidal zone along with Chthamalus dalli. Balanus
barnacles are distinguishable from Cthamalus barnacles, by
both their larger size (to ¾” in diameter and 3/8” high) and
the diamond shape of the operculum. Barnacles are sessile
arthropods that attach themselves permanently to the
substrate and filter feed with their adapted appendages
called cirri.
Rockweed – Silvetia compressa This brown alga is
common in our mid intertidal zone and has a range from
British Columbia to Baja California. It is normally 16” in
length but can grow to 36” inches tall and is characterized
by its dichotomous (fork) branching. In areas of high
human activity this species can be less abundant and
smaller in size due to trampling. At the end of the branch
tips are the reproductive bodies that swell in size in mature
individuals. This species provides excellent habitat for
various gastropods and crab species.
Black Turban Snail – Chlorostoma funebralis
(previously Tegula funebralis) Four turban snail species
are common in our local tidepools, but the most abundant
are the black turban snail (C. funebralis). These gastropods
have a black-purple shell with four whorls and grow to 1
¼” diameter. They have a range from British Columbia to
Baja California. These turban snails eat only soft algae,
and are believed to live up to 100 years.
Sea Anemone – Anthopleura sp. Two Anthopleura
species are common to local tidepools, the aggregating
anemone (A. elegantissima) and the solitary anemone (A.
sola). The two species are very similar; the aggregating
anemone (A. elegantissima) will be found with other
anemones within tentacle reach of one another and range
from 6 – 10 cm. A. sola can reach up to 25 cm in diameter
and will always be solo, often submerged in tidepools.
Anemones have evolved numerous adaptations to survive
life in the intertidal. These organisms provide an excellent
model for children exploring adaptations for dealing with
desiccation, consumption, predation, wave exposure and
Shore Crab – Pachygrapsus crassipes These common
crabs to any southern California rocky environment have a
range from Oregon to Baja and can grow to 1 ¾” wide at
the carapace. The crabs can be found underwater in
tidepools, hidden in rockweed beds, or deep in the back of
a crevice. Their primary food is algae, but they have been
known to feed on diatoms, hermit crabs, gastropods and
have even been known to catch kelp flies with their claws.
This indigenous crab of North America was introduced to
Asia in the late 1800s.
Sea Lettuce – Ulva sp. This green seaweed is tolerant of a
wide range of environmental conditions and the numerous
species found in southern California have a large range
from the Bering Sea to Chile. Ulva can be found in all
intertidal zones, but is most commonly found in the higher
zones. Ulva californica is the most common on the open
coast and is characterized as an open blade. Ulva
intestinalis can also be found in the splash zone, especially
near freshwater runoff. This species is characterized as a
tube-like blade. Ulva species have been eaten by various
cultures, either served with fish or in light soups.
California Mussel – Mytilus californianus The
California Sea mussel is the characteristic organism of the
mid intertidal zone and can often be seen in large beds
covering much of a rocky platform. The range of this
species is from Alaska to Baja and individuals of these
bivalves have been known to grow to 10” in length.
Mussel beds form a very important habitat for other critters
and it has been reported that over 450 species have been
found living within these mussel bed habitat created by the
California mussel. Mussels have numerous natural
predators, but often are disturbed and collected by humans
for bait, aquaria or killed through incidental trampling.
Limpets – Lottia sp. There are numerous limpet species
(6-10) in our local intertidal and can be readily identified in
almost all zones. Limpets are gastropods that forage on
algae with their scraping tongues known as radulas. These
grazers have a home territory, often with a scar or
depression made in the rock that they return to after
foraging. Our largest Lottia species the owl limpet (Lottia
gigantea) can grow up to 110 cm shell length, but are often
much smaller than this in local areas due to human
Kelp Snail – Norrisia norissi These gastropods are
primarily found in southern California and Baja, and can
grow up to 2 ½” in diameter. The kelp or Norris snail is
easily identifiable being larger in size than most intertidal
gastropods and has a bright orange foot. The snail is
usually found on brown algae, especially the giant kelp
(Macrocystis pyrifera) and the feather boa kelp (Egregia
menziesii), where it feeds on these species moving down
the algae during the day and returning to higher levels at
Chitons – Nuttalina fluxa There are several species of
chiton in southern California but the most abundant is the
Southern Spiny Chiton (Nuttalina fluxa). Chitons are
mollusks that can be identified by the eight interlocking
shells that are held together by an oval of tissue referred to
as the girdle. Unlike most chitons this species is not light
sensitive and does not retreat under rocks or Rockweed
during the day. Chitons feed on algae at night and often
can be found in eroded pits (similar to Lottia home scars)
during the day. Nuttalina fluxa is characterized by its
elongated shape with small hairs along the girdle or edges.
Coralline Algae – Corallina sp. Two species of this genus
are extremely common in Orange County intertidal areas,
and have a long range found from Alaska to Chile. The
articulated red algae often appears pink to purple in
coloration and forms large turf type beds in both tidepools
and bedrock benches. Although an algae, it derived its
name due to the precipitation of calcium carbonate from the
water column. When exposed to long periods of sunlight
these species get bleached white exposing the calcium
Gooseneck Barnacle – Pollicipes polymerus The
gooseneck barnacle is commonly found in the mid
intertidal zone. These barnacles are large in size (up to 4”
long) and have a distinct neck (stalk or peduncle) that leads
to a cream colored plate. It is said they derived their
common name by a misunderstanding of medieval monks
who believed that geese actually hatched from these
intertidal creatures.
Purple Sea Urchin – Stronglyocentrotus purpuratus.
Two species of Stonglyocentrotus are found in Orange
County tidepools, the purple sea urchin (Stonglyocentrotus
purpuratus) and the red sea urchin (Stonglyocentrotus
fransiscanus). The purple urchin is more common in the
intertidal and are about the size of a golf ball, where as the
red urchin is mostly subtidal, has longer spines, is about
softball size (to 6 ½”), and is usually a dark merlot color.
Both species have a range form Alaska to Baja. These
urchins feed primarily on brown algae and often
concentrate their efforts on the holdfast of the kelp. There
is a commercial dive industry for the red urchin and the
gonads are commonly served in Japanese restaurants.
Sand Castle Worm – Phragmatopoma californica Sand
grains are cemented together by these worms to form a
distinctive honey comb patterned colony, these colonies
have been known to reach 6 feet in size. Individual
organisms can grow to 2” in length and the range of this
organism is from Central California to Ensenada. These
sessile organisms are filter feeders that open their
operculum to capture detritus and plankton with their
distinctive black bristles. They possess a special organ that
coats captured sand with cement used for building their
Sea Fingers or Dead Man’s Fingers– Codium fragile
This distinctive green algae is common in the mid to low
intertidal zone and can also be found in large tidepools.
These algae can grow up to 16” and are identified by its
dark green velvety cylindrical branches that arise from a
central basal disc. Despite its large size, this species is
actually a multinucleate “single celled” algae – its single
celled because during cell division, the nuclei multiply but
no new cell walls are created as occurs during most cell
division. This species is very rich in vitamins and minerals
and is often used in soups. A small red alga, staghorn
fringe (Ceramium codicola) can only be found living on
this green algae.
Sea Hare – Aplysia californica This marine snail varies in
reddish to brown coloration, can grow up to 16” in length
and is found from the low intertidal to 60’ of water. Sea
hares derive their name from the two antennae that is said
to resemble rabbit’s ears. These snails forage on red algae,
and use the pigments to create its defense mechanism.
When Aplysia are disturbed they excrete a purple ink that
may confuse, paralyze or offend its predator. Sea hares are
hermaphrodites, having both male and female organs, but
must locate a mate to reproduce. These critters have been
used extensively in nerve research due to the large size of
their ganglia (nerve styles).
Giant Keyhole Limpet – Megathura crenulata The
highly distinct limpet is large in size (5-10”), has a large
soft body that ranges in color from beige to black and at the
apex of the shell a central oval opening (much like a
volcano) permits the organism to take care of its business.
The giant keyhole limpet has a species range from
Monterey Bay to Baja and can be found in the low
intertidal zone. The shells of this limpet were once used as
currency by native Americans of southern California.
Opaleye Perch – Girella nigricans Opaleye Perch are
one of two common fish species found in our local
tidepools. They are characterized by two white spots on
their backs. The opaleye are said to use the intertidal as a
nursery, using the shallow area as a protective breeding
ground until juveniles reach about 8” when they head to the
subtidal. Juvenile opaleye can breathe air when a tidepool
is completely exposed. Adult opaleye eat algae while
juveniles are known to be carnivorous, feeding on small
invertebrates in the tidepools.
Wavy Top Turban – Megastraea undosa The wavy top
turban is one of the larger gastropods found in the Orange
County intertidal zone and can range in size from 4 – 6” in
shell diameter. The range of this organism is from Point
Conception to Baja and they can be found in the low
intertidal to 60’ of depth. Megastraea possess a heavy
shell with a distinctive tear dropped shaped white
operculum that is often found washed ashore after storms.
Two Spot Octopus – Octopus bimaculoides The two spot
is commonly found in the tidepools of Orange County.
This mollusk has a mantle length of 8” with arms that
extend to 3 times the size of the mantel. The range of this
species is from Central California to Ensenada and can be
found in the low intertidal to 65’ of water. This intelligent
and voracious predator uses its drilling radula to make
holes in various gastropods and bivalves, but also feeds on
fish and arthropods. Chromatophores allow this organism
to change color quickly to camouflage into their
Ochre Star – Pisaster ochraceus The ochre star is the
characteristic organism of the rocky intertidal and can grow
to be 14” in diameter. The range for this Pisaster species is
Alaska to Baja and can be found from the mid intertidal to
300’ depth. Pisaster comes in three distinctive colors
(purple, brown and orange) called phases and scientists
have yet to determine the reason for coloration. Pisaster
feeds on mussels, abalone, chiton, barnacles and
gastropods, often using the powerful water vascular system
to prey shells and snail off the substrate and into then
extend their stomachs through their mouths to aid in
digestion. extend their stomachs through their mouths to
aid in digestion.
Abalone – Haliotis sp. Several abalone species (H
cracherodii and H. fulgens) used to be abundant in the
rocky intertidal areas of Orange County. High human
consumption mixed with a detrimental disease (Withering
Foot Disease) has caused a dramatic decrease in the
population of this gastropod. However, individuals and
shells can still be found at several Orange County tidepool
sites and numerous subtidal dive sites. These gastropods
range from 4 – 12 inches in shell length and feed
exclusively on algae. The shells of these species are
abundant in native middens, providing evidence they were
an important food source.
Bat Star – Asterina miniata The bat star is observed in
nearly every color of the rainbow and can grow up to 6” in
diameter. This Asterina sp. can tolerate a wide range of
environmental conditions and is found from Alaska to Baja
and from the mid intertidal to water 960’ deep. Members
of this species have been kept in captivity for 16 years and
are thought to live up to 30 years. When you turn this
species over to look at the aboral side one can often find a
commensal segmented worm living within the tube feet of
the bat star.
References for intertidal organisms from: Ricketts et al. 1985 and Sept 2002
Interpretation Principals 101
The two basic building blocks of contacting the general public is what we say to visitors and how
we say it. The tidepool interpretive program raises the awareness of the visitor by using the
natural classroom and enthusiastic volunteers who can translate these experiences. The
following are some short and sweet tips to help you begin interpreting.
1. Interpretation is about communication that connects and creates relationships.
Interpreting draws people into caring. It connects them to facts, stories, history and information
that have relevance to their lives and experiences. It is interactive and can be two way.
2. Information alone is not interpretation.
Avoid spouting technical marine biology terminology, which creates barriers and fails to connect
the visitor to the environment. Instead turn the technical information into relevant information
that connects the visitor to the animal and the animal to its environment.
For example:
Information: Sea stars clean themselves with special spines called pedicellaria.
Interpretation: Look here….sea stars are covered with different types of spines. These
white dots on the star are spines that have been modified to form special claw-like
structures that function to grab or pinch things off from living on them. These special
claws on the sea stars function to clean the animal and are called pedicellaria.
3. Try to inspire and not to instruct. So ask provocative questions.
For example: Have you ever wondered why sea stars are not covered with barnacles or
4. Illuminate the whole and not just the parts.
It is more important that a visitor recognize the relationship an animal has to its habitat and the
habitat to the environment, rather than a litany of names and facts.
5. When you don’t know the answer, don’t make it up.
Do not be afraid to say, “That is a great question and right now I don’t know the answer.” If you
have time or near by resources look the answer up. If you have an educated guess, try prefacing
an answer with, “I don’t know the precise answer to that question, but based upon what I do
know, my thought is….”
Interpreting Tips in the Intertidal
1. Greet visitors as they approach.
Example: Good morning, I’m a Tidepool Docent with ___________, If you have any
questions about the area or any of the critters you are seeing, please let me know.
2. Ask the children or parents if they are familiar with the animals and plants that live in the
If they are not off them the What do you see in the tidepools today brochure and point out
some of the key features of the brochure.
3. Point out something interesting.
Scan the area when you first get down to the rocks and find interesting items to point out to
visitors. Seek out sea stars and hermit crabs for young children.
4. Try to engage parents and children in the intertidal and help them explore.
Approach a family who is exploring by saying: “Good afternoon, are you having fun out
here? Have you found anything really interesting?”
5. Children are usually the easiest to please since they love animals. Since animals are in
abundance, ask them if they would like any help finding some sea stars, hermit crabs, or
maybe even an octopus.
6. Encourage a group of children to use their brochures as a scavenger hunt guide.
A group of small children can compete amongst each other, working from level 1 to level 6
competing to identify all the organisms on the brochure the fastest.
7. When talking to children, get down to their level.
Children can be intimidated by strangers and adults. It is a good practice to contact the
parent first, explain to them who you are and what you are doing and then when talking to
the children meet them at their eye level.
8. Direct visitors to other docents.
If several docents are onsite, you might encourage visitors to wander over to where the other
docent is, to see what they might be looking at or talking about.
Reference for resource interpretation: Haystack Rock Awareness Program Volunteer Manual 2005
Conservation efforts of Orange County Tidepool Docents/Educators
Our docent programs work to educate the public concerning state rules designed to help protect
the intertidal and marine environments of Orange County. We hope that through increased
public awareness fewer visitor-induced impacts and MPA violations will occur, with the overall
effect of increased conservation of the local intertidal resources. One of the initial projects of the
Orange County Marine Protected Area Committee was to interpret the state regulations for our
local MPAs and design a set of easily understood “good tidepooler rules.” These rules are now
posted at the entrance of every County MPA and all programs share consistent messaging.
The “Good Tidepooler Rules”
For the past nine years the Orange County Marine Protected Area Committee has been focused
on the conservation of the rocky intertidal. One of the major accomplishments of the Committee
was the establishment of the “Good Tidepooler Rules” and its adoption in the signage at all
County MPAs. Recognizing that our tidepools are being “loved to death” it is essential that
docents convey the message of careful and effective exploration of this environment. The
following guidelines have been set up to help tidepool explorers minimize their impact on
tidepool organisms and habitat.
1. Never remove animals, shells or rocks from the tidepools.
Placing animals in buckets, even for a short time, is like leaving a dog in a hot
car. The high temperatures can kill the delicate tidepool animals. When you
remove rocks and shells, even broken and empty ones, you are taking a future
hermit crab home or camouflage for an anemone or sea urchin.
2. Never pick up animals...observe them where they are.
We are visitors in the tidepool creature's neighborhood. Picking up animals and
putting them down in another part of the MPA is like something picking us up
from our home...and putting us down IN ALASKA! We would feel very out of
place. So do the animals.
3. Walk gently, taking care not to step on plants or animals.
Many animals in the tidepool take cover in the cracks and in seaweed that grows
on the rocks. Careless footsteps can crush animals we can't see hiding in the
4. Never turn over rocks.
Tidepool creatures hide under rocks for many reasons. When you turn rocks over
you may leave the animals exposed to the hot sun and they may not survive. You
might also leave them out in the open where they may be eaten by predators like
birds and fish.
Ways to address and educate the public concerning the “good tidepooler rules”
THE BIG PICTURE: Several points to keep in mind
We can minimize impact, but we can not eliminate it. The tidepools of Orange County are
readily accessible to a high population of urban visitors. As much as we care about these areas,
we logistically can’t always be at all the tidepools at every low tide. Keep in mind that nature
changes the intertidal habitat; sand moves in and covers rocks, mussels are dislodged by storm
waves, sea stars die during low tide cycles that occur during heart waves. Orange County MPAs
are high human use areas and we must do what we can to minimize anthropogenic disturbances,
but recognize that loss is a natural part of the cycle.
Education leads to stewardship. The premise of our programs is that the long term benefit of
education outweighs the benefits of closing the area to the public or writing a lot of tickets. If we
educate the public and they understand the purpose of the “good tidepooler rules” then they
become the ambassadors and stewards of our local tidepools.
Make every interaction as positive as possible! Our goal is to educate the public. This makes
it imperative that we are as respectful and unassuming as possible in the way we address visitors.
We must make every interaction as positive as possible so people want to become stewards of
the marine environment. Ultimately we want the public to police themselves.
Intercepting tips for contacting visitors not following the “good tidepooler rules”
Remember the program goals: to educate and inspire. The best way to do this when addressing
visitors who are not following the “good tidepooler rules” is to:
1. Use friendly greeting:
“Hello there” or “Good Morning Sir”
2. Use a friendly tone and posture
3. Be courteous and respectful:
Address visitors as you would want to be addressed in their situation. Remember that
this is a public place and to use courtesy such as, please.
4. Explain why:
Around 90% of the public are just ignorant of the “good tidepooler rules” and simply
do not know any better.
Find time to explain why they can not or should not do something without lecturing.
5. Interpret. Integrating a conservation message with a rule allows for the visitor to
understand the rule.
6. Try to focus your attention on what visitors can do rather than what they can not do.
7. Avoid using the work “you” which puts blame on the person.
This is less likely to put the person on the defensive.
8. Approach the visitor calmly.
This draws less attention to you, to the person not following the rules, and to the
organization that you’re representing. It is also less likely to put the visitor on the
The Rules: Specific ways to address and educate
Rule #1: Never remove animals, shells or rocks from the tidepools.
Inform visitors who are collecting that they are in a Marine Protected Area and that we ask
visitors to leave things as they find them. Explain that we are a high use area and if everyone
collected there wouldn’t be anything left. Help the visitor return collected organisms to
appropriate habitats.
Ask people to leave shells, because they are an important element to the intertidal areas. Shells
provide shelter, hiding places and are reused by animals. Broken bits of shells protect anemones
from the sun. And calcium is recycled by animals in order to make more shells.
Check buckets for live animals, shells, and shells with live animals on them. Let visitors know
they are in a Marine Protected Area and that there is no collecting. Their bucket may already
have been checked, so approach them by saying something like, “You may have already been
asked, but I need to make sure you are aware that we are a Marine Protected Area and that we
ask you to leave everything as you find it, even shells.
Rule #2: Never pick up animals…observe them where they are.
Ask visitors not to carry animals around. Again these organisms are uniquely adapted to specific
habitats. If they are placed in a different location they may not survive
Ask visitors who are touching to do so gently. It is common practice to have children touch with
two fingers and be gentle to leave things as they found them. Discourage poking and prodding
with foreign objects such as sticks, shovels and buckets.
Rule #3: Walk gently taking care not to step on plants and animals.
Encourage visitors to avoid walking on plants and animals. As a rule please inform visitors to
walk on bare rocks and sand and to do their best to step around algae and organisms. However
this is not a hard rule that you CANNOT walk on any plants and animals because this is
obviously impossible if you are truly exploring the tidepools.
Promote walking on bare rock. Ask visitors to watch where they step and to step on bare sand or
bare rock. Point out that while a rock may look bare, it’s really covered in wildlife. Get down
and point out some of these animals and important algae. Explain that animals also live under
rocks and use algae as a preferred habitat. You might go so far as to explain how local scientist
have shown that walking on both rockweed and mussels has been proven to lead to deleterious
effects on these species.
Promote staying out of tidepools or walking through them. It is really difficult to avoid
trampling organisms if you are in a tidepool. Even if the bottom of the tidepool has a nice sand
layer, there are often animals that live beneath the sand or maybe struggling to get out of a recent
sand cover.
Rule #4: Never turn over rocks.
Discourage people from turning over rocks. Careless turning can crush animals living attached
to the rocks, under rocks or crush animals that were in the way of the rock when it landed. If
rocks are left turned over, plants and animals could die from desiccation from the change in
habitat conditions. The best way to avoid damaging animals and algae is not to disturb rocks at
If the above tactics and approaches do not discourage the guest from ignoring the “good
tidepooler rules” please do the following two things.
1. Walk away from the person and the situation. Once you have informed the visitor of
the rules and policies there is nothing more the docent/educator can do. If a person
chooses to ignore you or to argue with you, the best thing to do is walk away from them.
As a volunteer it is your job to be out there having a good time, it is simply not worth it to
get in an argument with a young kid or defensive parent. Ask yourself, “Am I having
fun?” and if the answer is “no” cut your shift short and go home. Come back next time
refreshed, with a renewed commitment to educating others and enjoying the tidepools.
2. Call someone who can help. Each program has a response plan to get you the back up
and assistance you need from professionals or enforcement personnel. Be familiar with
the plan and the phone numbers found in the logistics package for each program site.
Human Use, Research and Monitoring
Numerous studies have been conducted to show that
humans using the rocky intertidal areas can create
adverse and negative effects to the habitat and
organisms. People use this area for all sorts of
reasons, it is our job to make sure that they appreciate
and explore this environment without causing damage
or unnecessary impacts to the algae, animals and
habitat. Besides the research conducted on human
use, rocky intertidal shores are a great place to
conduct research on various ecological principals and
the physiology of specific organisms. Monitoring of
how these communities change over time has been
studied for several years now on a regional scale
through MARINe (Multi- Area Rocky Intertidal
Network) through the help of local universities such
as California State University Fullerton. For more
information on human use, current research and
monitoring efforts please visit or
Interpretation Principals 201 (from National Park Service’s “Interpreting for Park
I. The Interpretative Equation
A. (KR + KA) x AT = IO
(Knowledge of Resource + Knowledge of the Audience) x Appropriate Techniques =
Interpretive Opportunities
1. The interpretive equation applies to all activities
2. It is important to keep the equation elements in balance
B. “Grading” or assessing the desired OUTCOMES of the equation
1. The interpreter must regularly evaluate whether interpretive activities are
providing effective opportunities (small “o” outcomes), and whether these
opportunities result in the ultimate desired outcome of a stronger stewardship
ethic in the audience (large “O” outcomes).
II. The Five Elements of the Interpretive Equation
A. Knowledge of the Resource (KR)
1. Knowledge is more than just the facts about the resources. Interpreters must
identify and be fully aware of the many different intangible and universal
meanings the resources represent to various audiences.
2. Interpreters must possess a very broad knowledge of the history of the park
(supplement MPA) beyond just the enabling legislation. They must be
knowledgeable about past and contemporary issues and the condition of the
park and resources.
3. Interpreters should not use their knowledge of the resources and
intangible/universal meanings associated with them to offer only bland
recitals of non-controversial “safe” facts. Interpretation embraces a discussion
of human values, conflicts, ideas, tragedies, achievements ambiguities, and
4. Interpreters must accommodate and present multiple points of view in their
interpretation and not presume to expound what the think is the only “official”
or “true” version of the reources and their meanings.
5. Interpreters must be careful to rely on accurate information when developing
interpretive material and avoid the tendency to exaggerate or slant information
to present a personal or particular viewpoint.
6. Interpreters should use their knowledge to convey the park’s (MPAs) resource
related themes.
B. Knowledge of the Audience (KA)
1. Important! The definition of audience includes more than just those
individuals who actually visit a park/MPA. We have a professional
responsibility to reach out and provide interpretive opportunities for those
who will never visit a park, as well as to actual park visitors. There are many
ways to be a visitor to a national park (or MPA) in person, electronically
through a computer, through a program in a classroom, or by reading a book.
There is no such thing as the average visitor.
Not every visitor requires an “intensive” interpretive experience.
Interpreters must recognize and respect the specific personal values and
interest visitors associate with resources.
Interpreters should keep in mind the “visitors bill of rights.” Whether visiting
a park on-site or off, visitors have the right to:
a. have their privacy and independence respected;
b. retain and express their own values;
c. be treated with courtesy and consideration;
d. receive accurate and balanced information.
Interpreters should recognize the “visitor continuum.” The ultimate goal of
interpretation is to provide opportunities for visitors to forge compelling
linkages with the resources that they develop an active stewardship ethic.
Visitors generally fall into a continuum in one of the following give
categories, any of which may lead to increasing awareness of the relationships
between tangible resources and their intangible and universal values:
a. recreation/”trophy hunting”/collecting;
b. nostalgia/refuge/isolation;
c. information/knowledge;
d. connections/linkages;
e. stewardship/patrons.
The interpreter’s job is to ensure that visitors have a positive experience at any
of these levels, and to try to help visitors reach a deeper and richer level of
understanding if possible. No matter where the visitors are on the continuum,
the interpreter should strive to give them something of value to take home.
C. Knowledge of the Appropriate Techniques (AT)
1. There are many interpretive techniques, none of which is inherently better
than another. Determination of the appropriate technique results from analysis
of the resource themes and audience profile. The interpreter should never
choose a technique without first identifying the theme, goals, and objectives
and the prospective audience to determine if it is an appropriate “fit”.
Choosing techniques willy-nilly or because the interpreter personally enjoys
them may mean that programs are only reaching a small portion of the
2. Whichever technique is chosen, whether personal or non-personal, on-site or
off-site, interpreters should ensure that it addresses the
tangible/intangible/universal linkages of the resource.
3. Interpreters must stay current on communications and delivery techniques and
new media possibilities and use them as appropriate. However, beware of
adopting new techniques simply because they are new.
4. Interpreters must regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the techniques used
and replace or update them when they no longer achieve the desired
D. The Interpretive Opportunity (IO)
1. To provide interpretive opportunities to the widest array of audiences, the
interpreter must be proficient in as many techniques as possible, and should
ensure that the overall park interpretive program offers the interpretive themes
through as many different techniques as appropriate.
2. The effect of the interpretive opportunity may not be immediately apparent to
either the interpreter or the visitor. Interpretation may have both a long-term
and/or a short term effect. Interpreters should not always expect to see an
immediate reaction in the visitor.
E. The Interpretive Outcome: INTERPRETATION IS A SEED, NOT A TREE!
1. Outcome evaluation must be visitor based.
2. Evaluations should examine both short-term and long-term outcomes.
Evaluations of short-term outcomes focus on whether an effective interpretive
opportunity was offered to the audience (i.e., was the information correct, was
an appropriate technique used). Evaluations of long-term outcomes focus on
whether the larger program or organizational goals/mission was met.
3. Although outcome cannot always be measured immediately or quantitatively,
the interpreter still has a professional responsibility to measure the
effectiveness of the various interpretive opportunities being offered to the
public to see if they are successful or need revising or updating.
4. Interpreters must seek feedback from the audience to gauge the effectiveness
of the interpretive them, content, program, etc. The degree to which the
audience forms effective linkages to the resources, not the amount of
information conveyed, audience applause, or the personal satisfaction of the
interpreter, is the measure of an effective outcome.
5. Evaluation of interpretive outcomes can occur through a variety of
mechanisms such as focus groups, visitor, “report cards”, and visitor surveys.
III. Final Thought
Although not specifically included in the interpretive equation, the interpreter’s attitude is
a vital element in ensuring that the equation works properly. The interpreter must care
about both the resource and facilitating interpretive opportunities and outcomes if he or
she wishes to inspire caring in others. In short, those who appreciate the resources
protect and conserve them.
Spanish Phrases and Names Useful to Docents/Educators
Hello. My name is ____________.
Hola. Mi nombre es _________.
Welcome to ____________.
Bienvendio al _____________.
I do not speak Spanish.
Lo siento, No hablo Espanol.
Please treat the animlas gently.
Por favor trate bien a los animales.
It is OK to touch, it won't hurt you.
Esta bien tocarlos - no te danan.
Would you like to touch this animal?
Quire tocar esta animal?
Please touch with just two fingers.
Por favor toquolo con dos dedos.
Please keep the animals in the water.
Por favor mantenga los ainmales en el agua.
Thank you for visiting.
Gracias por visitarnos.
Please come back soon.
Por favor, regersen pronto.
The Good Tidepooler Rules
Never remove animals, shells or rocks from
the tidepools
Siga Las Relas de los Exploradores
Cuidadosos de las Albercas
Nunca remueva animales, conchas, o rocas
de las albercas
Never pick up animals…observe them where
they are.
Nunca coja los animales; observelos donde
Don't pull animals off the rocks, or poke them
with sticks.
No arranque animales de las rocas, ni les
lastime con algo puntiagudo
Walk gently, taking care not to step on plants
or animals.
Camine con cuidado, asegurandose que no
pisa las plantas o los animales
Never turn over rocks.
Nunca de vueltas a las rocas
Hermit Crab
Morey Eel
Cirripedios Barnacles
Cangrejo ermitano
La alga marina
El nudibranquio
Sand Dollar
Sea Cucmber
Sea Hare
Sea Star
Sea Urchin
Tube Feet
Wavy Turban
Dolar de mar
Almeja voladora piene
Pepino de mar
Liebre Marina
Estrella de mar
La palma de mar
El camaron
Las mareas
Los pies tubulares
Caracol Turbante Concha
MPA Definitions
California state law defines an MPA as a “named discrete geographic marine area seaward of the
mean high tide line that has been designated by law or administrative action to protect or
conserve marine life and habitat” (DFG 2005).
The State of California recognizes three types of MPAs to protect living resources.
State Marine Reserve (SMR): The most restrictive classification of MPA, these areas are notake areas (all extractive activities are prohibited).
State Marine Park (SMP): May allow recreational take, or limit it in some way, but does not
allow commercial take.
State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA): May limit recreational and/or commercial take to
protect a specific resource or habitat.
Almost all MPAs in Orange County were originally designated as a marine life refuges.
Although no specific objectives were provided for the marine life refuge designation, Fish and
Game Code Section 10500 states that “Except under specific permit or authorization, it is
unlawful to take or possess any invertebrate or specimen of plant life in a marine life refuge.”
Benefits of Marine Reserves (excerpt from PISCO Science of Marine Reserves 2007)
Scientists have studied more than 124 marine
reserves around the world and monitored
biological changes inside the reserves. A
global review of these studies revealed that
fishes, invertebrates and algae in marine
reserves display increased:
1) Biomass (the mass of animals and
plants) increased an average of 446%.
2) Density (the number of plants or
animals in a given area) increased an
average of 166%.
3) Body size of animals increased an
average of 28%.
4) Species diversity (the number of
species) increased an average of 21%.
#1: Robert E. Badham State Marine Conservation Area
Formerly known as: Newport Beach Marine Life Refuge
State Marine Conservation Area
Local Area Manager:
City of Newport Beach Harbor Resources, Refuge Supervisor
#2: Crystal Cove State Marine Conservation Area
Local Area Manager:
Formerly known as: Crystal Cove Underwater Park
State Marine Conservation Area
California Department of Parks and Recreation
State Parks Environmental Scientist
Crystal Cove State Park Superintendent
#3: Irvine Coast State Marine Conservation Area
Local Area Manager:
Formerly known as: Irvine Coast Marine Life Refuge
State Marine Conservation Area
California Department of Parks and Recreation
State Parks Environmental Scientist
Crystal Cove State Park Superintendent
#4: Laguna Beach State Marine Conservation Area
Local Area Manager:
Formerly known as: Laguna Beach Marine Life Refuge
State Marine Conservation Area
City of Laguna Beach Marine Safety Department
Marine Protection Officer
#5: Heisler Park State Marine Reserve
Local Area Manager:
Formerly known as: Heisler Park Ecological Reserve
State Marine Reserve
City of Laguna Beach Marine Safety Department
Marine Protection Officer
#6: South Laguna Beach State Marine Conservation Area
Local Area Manager:
Formerly known as: Laguna Beach Marine Life Refuge
State Marine Conservation Area
City of Laguna Beach Marine Safety Department
Marine Protection Officer
#7: Niguel State Marine Conservation Area
Local Area Manager:
Formerly known as: Niguel Marine Life Refuge
State Marine Conservation Area
None to date
#8: Dana Point State Marine Conservation Area
Local Area Manager:
Formerly known as: Dana Point Marine Life Refuge
State Marine Conservation Area
The Ocean Institute
Executive Vice President, Education and Research
#9: Doheny Beach State Marine Conservation Area
Local Area Manager:
Formerly known as: Doheny Beach Marine Life Refuge
State Marine Conservation Area
California Department of Parks and Recreation
Supervising Ranger, Doheny State Beach
Q. What do you folks do?
A. This is a Marine Protected Area and our job here as volunteers and staff is to introduce you
to the magic of the area and help you understand some of the connections among species here.
Q. Are you folks out here every day?
A. No. We are at the beach during low tides when the tidepools are accessible and visitors are
present. The extent of each interpretive program is determined by the time of year, time and
extremity of the low tide and the number of visitors or groups anticipated.
Q. Are you with the (state or federal) Park Service?
A. Is some cases yes, but for the most part our volunteers are working with both local City and
non-profit organizations. In an effort to have a consistent message and pool resources the
Orange County Marine Protected Area Committee has been working together to fund and train
all docents for the tidepool areas of Orange County. Other support comes from volunteers
spending hours on the beach and from generous grants and donation made by businesses and
visitors like you.
Q. May I have a brochure?
A. Absolutely, thank you for asking, we are very proud of our brochure. With it, you can identify
plants and animals you will see while you are here at the tidepools. It will also give you a basic
understanding of the connectedness of organisms in this marine environment. Also note the
“good tidepooler rules” on the back that will help you explore the area in a safe manner.
Q. Are you guys out here to enforce and regulate the tidepools?
A. No, we are out here to educate the visitors about these valuable resources. Through this
interpretation it is hoped that visitors will gain an increased appreciation of the tidepools and
will voluntarily follow the suggested “good tidepooler rules.” We like to call this interpretive
enforcement or conservation through education.
Q. Do I need a degree in marine biology to help on the beach and how to become a
A. No. The most important qualities of a successful volunteer are enthusiasm, tact in dealing
with visitors, and a willingness to watch, listen and continue to learn. Each area will have there
own procedures to become a volunteer, but the next new docent training course through
OCMPAC is _________ and you can contact __________ to get enrolled in the training.
Q. What animals will we see in the tidepools?
A. This brochure, “What do you see in the tidepools today” will cover all the most common
organisms that you will find in the tidepools. If you see anything not on the brochure or have
further questions please let one of the docents/educators know so that we can tell you more.
Q. When is low tide?
A. Low tide is at _____ today. Please make sure that there is a tide chart in your docent bag and
that you know what the tide is doing through out the course of your shift. The next question that
follows is, “when is the low tide the following day or the following week?”
Q. What causes the tides?
A. The tide is caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon. The moon’s gravity
plays a larger role because it is closer than the sun. We have our highest highs and our lowest
lows when the moon is new or full. During these moon phases the moon and sun are opposite
each other and the combined gravitational pull of both bodies creates the increased tidal
Q. What kind of tides do we have here?
A. Mixed semi-diurnal. In a 24 hour period these are 2 high tides and 2 low tides, each of a
different height. There is typically 6 hours between high tide and low tide. The lowest low for
the next day will typically be 53 minutes later than today’s lowest low tide.
Q. Can I take mussels to fish with from here?
A. No. This is a Marine Protected Area that was designated to protect the rocky intertidal life.
Even taking one or two mussels might be detrimental to the mussel beds. When a few mussels
become dislodged from a bed it makes the remainder of the mussels vulnerable to natural
disturbances such as wave shock and predation.
Q. If this is a marine protected area, why can people fish here?
A. The answer to this question will not be the same at all Orange County MPAs. Currently at
both Heisler Park and Dana Point there is no fishing allowed from the intertidal. For the
remainder of the areas an answer might be, “these MPAs were designed to protect the intertidal
marine invertebrates and the designation of the MPA extends some ways out to sea. While most
intertidal animals and plants are protected, a State Marine Conservation Area allows for both
some take of commercial and recreational species. For these Conservation Areas the fishermen
have very specific regulation to what they can and can not take, and it is up to the fishermen to
know the Fish and Game regulations.”
Q. Should I enforce the Fish and Game regulations for those fishing in an MPA?
A. No. I would leave the enforcement of fishing regulations to the professionals who will both
check licensing and catch. If the fishermen have some questionable catch and are regularly
abusing the tidepools and fishing with collected bait, please contact the professionals
immediately and let them deal with the situation.
Q. Are these tidepools man made? I see all those bolts in the rocks are they holding them
A. No and no. Orange County tidepools were all formed naturally through sedimentary
processes. The bolts are there as reference markers for Biologist who monitor the area to see
how species abundance and distribution changes over time. This monitoring is part of a
statewide effort and biologist from Cal State Fullerton survey these intertidal areas.
Q. How old do sea anemones get?
Q. How do sea stars reproduce?
Q. Are urchins poisonous?
Q. What are those tadpoles in the water?
A. There are lots of specific critter questions, some you will learn or know the answers to, others
no one knows the answers to. Reproduction and age structure varies by species, please spend
some time reading your resources and please talk to other volunteers or educators to learn these
answers and tricks of the trade.
Boles, J.R. and Werner Landry 1988. Santa Cruz Island Geology Field Trip Guide, San
Diego Associate of Geologist.
Campbell, Neil and Jane Reece 2002. Biology, Benjamin Cummings.
Carlton J.T. (editor) 2007. The Light and Smith Manual Intertidal Invertebrates from Central
California to Oregon (4th edition), University of California Press.
Denny, M.W. and S.D. Gaines (editors) 2007. The Encyclopedia Tidepools and Rocky
Shores, University of California Press.
Hinton, Sam 1987. Seashore Life of Southern California, University of California Press.
Murray S.N., Richard F. Ambrose and Megan N. Dethier 2006. Monitoring Rocky Shores,
University of California Press.
Niesen, T.M. 1982. The Marine Biology Coloring Book, Harper Collins Publishers.
Ricketts, E.F. Jack Calvin and Joel Hedgpeth (D.W. Phillips editor) 1985. Between Pacific
Tides (5th edition), Stanford University Press.
Sept, J Duane 2002. The Beachcombers Guide to Seashore Life of California, Harbor
Tarbuck, E.J., and Fredrick Lutgens 1996. Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology,
Prentice Hall.
Orange County Marine Protected Area Committee:
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium:
Marine Life Protection Act:
Partnership for Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans:
National Marine Sanctuaries:
National Marine Protected Area Center:
Multi-Area Rocky Intertidal Network – Intertidal Monitoring:
Cabrillo National Monument:
Photo Database of the California Coast: