Thursday, November 15, 2012

On the rocks, please... intertidal monitoring bliss

Skillz: a park volunteer (yet another professional biologist) perched atop a large marine boulder (at Cabrillo National Monumentsearching for and measuring every owl limpet (Lottia giganteawithin 1 meter of a metal bolt. Note the wet spots where her feet were are only where owl limpets are not. She's good. =)

This is a picture of a good day.
If you see me doing this,
you will know I am in my happy place.

I will have ocean-soggy feet,
blonde hair flying wildly,
and a semi-permanent grin on my face.

I love the above photo
because it shows you a part of this work
that is very important,
but few would ever think of.

Our team: 3 professional biologists working for free 'cause a) we're just that nerdy, b) it's such a freakin' awesome place, and c) it's a fabulous cause. =) Note the orange chalk marking either the plot boundaries, or owl limpets that have already been measured.

Something that adds another level of complexity
and makes me love this work all the more.

Aside from having to lean into, hover over, squat under, or perch upon
a cold, hard, damp, variably squishy or scratchy boulder for up to an hour, 
and find and measure all the owl limpets
(being careful not to confuse smaller L.g. with other species),
you need to do it without crushing any owl limpets.

Don't tread on me! Lovely owl limpets. Note the area they've cleared of competitors (via bulldozing) so they can farm algae. Pretty awesome and interesting way of life. Clearly, though, it's tough to doze your own back....

And perching can include tip-toe-ing around on slimy
boulders or ledges: slipping is not an option.

Sometimes you get smacked around by waves,
and you always have to watch the tide.

Sing with me! "Every Lottia is sacred. Every Lottia is great. If a Lottia gets wasted, bb gets quite irate."

Finally, these boulders, ledges, and cliffs were selected for this study
because they sport so many owl limpets. High density.

I kind of love that.

So, while you try to work quickly and accurately,
to accomplish as much as possible in the time given,
within an ever-changing environment that's entirely out of your control,
you must also ensure that you don't hurt anyone.

I think it's good practice.
For lots of things.




  1. You have a great life!
    You know you are in THE career for you when it occupies your every moment. Congrats-you're one of the lucky ones......

    1. Aw, thanks! =) Yes, it's pretty awesome, but you DID note, I hope, that I was volunteering to do that work, yes?!? USED to get paid for it, but now am a happy amateur. AND I drove 430 miles each way to do it (& visit a friend). =) But that's a small price to pay to get OUT there. *happysigh*.

      However, I was a biology major in college for the same reason actors say they act, and dancers say they dance, because I HAD to be a biology major, biochemistry be damned (or at least passed). =) The guy on my team said at the end of the day to the guy running the show that he wanted to nominate me as most energetic. The big cheese said "I already named her that once she got here." =) Apparently people can tell I'm a drooling fan. You are right. I am a lucky girl. =)

  2. I LOVE owl limpets! (And limpets generally.)Plus they change sex, and their timing of sex change appears to depend on their pop density! (e.g. Wright 1989) --Now, remind me, are owl limpets one of the species that make the so poetically named "home scars" because they return to the same spot on their rock over and over and over?

    You are a good person, and since god, if there is such a creature, is clearly a mollusk, you've guaranteed a place for yourself! :)

    1. Well, if I'm going to do well, then YOU will probably be royalty, yes?

      So, thank you for making me look it up, =) here's the info from that Pacific Rocky Intertidal Monitoring web site (

      "L. gigantea tend to occupy one or more characteristic 'home scars' within their territories. Here the shell margin conforms to the rock surface, making a tight seal to hold moisture during low tide."

      So, now I know, too! =)


Cool people write inside rectangles....