Thursday, January 28, 2010

SMC Marine Biology Field Trip to Palos Verdes - 1/27/10

I've mentioned before that my husband Garen teaches Marine Biology at Santa Monica College. After missing out on many Palos Verdes field trips, (his favorite), I got to go along yesterday with about 20 or so of his winter term students.
The view from the top was stunning. The path to the bottom was treacherous. Soil with a high clay content, steep slaking rock ledges, and a sharp decline to the bottom made many of us hold our breath on the way down.

But Garen insisted this hair-raising decline was worth it because this place was pristine, allowing you to find octopi, rare crabs, and other "beasties" as he calls them.
He was right, but unfortunately one of the first unusual things I saw was this foaming can of toxic something or other.....
And when I inspected the high tide line, this is what I encountered. It looked like someone had taken a blue recycling bin and sprinkled it over the beach.
I walked away from the distressing sight after snapping a few pictures, resolving to address the trash later, and joined the group in time to see this.
Garen passing a brittle star off to one of his students for closer inspection. So cool!
My friend and fellow art teacher, Matt Mac Farland designed the crab that holds an old fashioned trash picker in the middle of The Daily Ocean logo. This little green crab reminded me of his beautiful illustration design. Matt has studio space in downtown LA at the Brewery and can be found teaching classes at The Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, where I also used to teach.
A tiny, baby Brittle Star. Unbelievable that these small creatures survive the thrashing tidal environment to grow to their full size.
Garen cupped his hands around a fish larvae that he wasn't able to identify, but that impressed the hell out of everyone. "Beautiful," he said with a big smile before laying in gently back into the water.
Can you find the Octopus in this picture?
Well here is the same one from the photo above. It darkened its color as soon as it dropped from the safety of the rock into Garen's hand. I had no idea that we were going to be finding Octopuses that were so small! Although small in size, they had a huge presence, making it clear to me that what I have heard about them is true. They grow into intelligent creatures with likes, and aversions to specific people, the ability to use tools, and their all around cool attitude!
The student that found it. Garen kept emphasizing that the Octopus was choosing to stay and play with us. That if it wanted to, it would be gone in a second, back in the water, and out of our reach.
Doesn't this look like some kind of tough Algae?
Here's another shot of it for closer inspection before you decide what it is.....

It is a piece of tough bike rubber, or other plastic miscellaneous item that has been assimilated into the tidal zone as part of the environment. I left it behind, not wanting to strand its inhabitants for the sake of collecting trash. This happened to many of us. We would find a piece of plastic, or synthetic material that was now the home to a small colony of creatures forcing us to choose whether or not to destroy the home of some unsuspecting small "beasties."
Another example of trash turned habitat.
A view looking out to the bay from the tidal pools we were exploring.
After becoming aware of the abundance of litter that was invading the high tide line, many students braved the steep trek back up while holding shoes, buckets, broken plastic plates, aerosol cans of exploding hard foamy stuff, and many other miscellaneous pieces of trash.

They noticed that most of it was PLASTIC, and I emphasized that plastic is designed to last forever, but we use it to package items we only use for minutes.

Garen and I discussed how plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller parts but never truly bio degrades. We told them how these small, toxic pieces enter the food chain at the base level, making its way back to us by consuming the fish we eat.

And that one solution, although seemingly small, is to RETHINK what we buy in our everyday life. Sure a bottle of your favorite soda is easy to grab on the go, but look where the bottles end up..........

Garen will be covering more of these problems, and some of the solutions in his class next week, and I am curious to hear what the students have to say.

I asked them that if this vibrant environment, teeming with unexpected life made an impression on them, to please also take away the impression of just how much trash we found on a seemingly secluded beach.