Monday, October 3, 2016

At the Seashore

Environmental & Science Education
by Edward Hessler

Among my favorite places (alas, least visited) are the edges of the seas, especially rocky ones with intertidal pools.

These edges -- you may recall Rachel Carson's book, The Edge of the Sea -- are fascinating and have also been responsible for some significant research on how communities are regulated (cf. Robert Paine's work on starfish and sea urchins).

Photo of a tide pool from Wikipedia.
Deep Look, the series of short documentary videos produced by KQED and PBS, shows part of the life cycle of sea urchins (aka sea hedgehogs) which live in sea edges.

The early life of sea urchins is tumultuous and chancy, beginning in the open ocean and ending up, when they are successful, on seashores where they grow to maturity and live in the relentless cycle of tides and endless waves.

John Steinbeck dedicated Cannery Row to marine biologist and intertidal ecologist, Ed Ricketts, the "Doc" in the book. Ricketts lived in as well as stored specimens he collected at the shore and tide pools in a building known as Pacific Marine Laboratories. Here is Steinbeck writing about the richness of the shore.

Doc was collecting marine animals in the Great Tide Pool on the tip of the Peninsula. It is a fabulous place: when the tide is in, a wave-churned basin, creamy with foam, whipped by the combers that roll in... But when the tide goes out the little water world becomes quiet and lovely. The sea is very clear and the bottom becomes fantastic with hurrying, fighting, feeding, breeding animals. Crabs rush from frond to frond of the waving algae. Starfish squat over mussels and limpets, attach their million little suckers and then slowly lift with incredible power until the prey is broken from the rock. And then the starfish stomach comes out and envelops its food.

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