by Emily Gottlieb, LiMPETS Coordinator for Central California
How does a sea anemone eat? What time of year are the most pacific mole crabs found on the beach? How do you tell the difference between flattened and slender rockweed? These are not questions from last night’s Jeopardy episode or this year’s AP biology test. These are questions that real students ask while they collect real data in the field as part of LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students). For over ten years, LiMPETS has encouraged scientific inquiry through hands-on science experience, a theme that now beats throughout the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards).
The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History has coordinated LiMPETS for the California Central Coast (Davenport to San Simeon) since 2011 as part of the larger LiMPETS network. The network engages approximately 5,500 students and teachers annually monitoring sites from the Sonoma Coast to Los Angeles.
Author: Jeff Sandler, teacher, The Berkeley School
In May 2014, the 7th grade life science class from The Berkeley School spent an entire week out in the field focusing
on some of our local communities. In addition to participating in both LiMPETS monitoring projects (sand crabs at Muir Beach and the rocky intertidal zone at Duxbury Reef in Bolinas), students and teachers spent a night camping and learning about the redwoods at Samuel P. Taylor park.
A group of students from The Branson School have been monitoring key invertebrates and species of algae at Duxbury Reef in Bolinas, California for roughly 10 years. This January, we found some unexpected things. We saw an octopus, a rare sighting!
The octopus in question was an East Pacific Red Octopus, or Octopus rubescens. Like many octopuses, the Red Octopus has an amazing ability to camouflage, and is able to alter both the color and texture of its skin. We were able to experience its incredible camouflage ability first hand; the octopus first mimicked coralline algae, turning itself a reddish pink, and adopted a bumpy texture, executing a near-flawless impression of the algae. Later, after moving from the side of the pool to the floor, it turned a dark brown, in order to match the rocky substrate at the bottom of the pool.
Another interesting thing about the monitoring was the fact that no one in our group saw a single sea star. Sea stars are a common staple of intertidal life at Duxbury, so this blatant lack of sea stars was not only unusual, but also very concerning.