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2014 Intertidal Ecology Survey Statement of Purpose

2014 Intertidal Ecology Survey Statement of Purpose
James Landers  (Volunteer, California State Parks)

This study surveys the ecology of intertidal invertebrate and marine plant communities between Point Conception and Point Arena in central California. The study is privately funded and conducted by the author, and is scheduled for Spring 2014. The study is observational only and no specimens will be collected. Policy and practice for the avoidance of harm of any kind to marine life will be strictly followed. Information gathered in the study will be privately published and made available to interested parties, including the sites surveyed.


The primary objective is to record detail of environmental conditions and catalogue invertebrate species at selected survey sites. Secondarily, further evaluation will be made of one species previously studied in 2001, the owl limpet Lottia gigantea, at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach CA. Finally, related topics of previous research on the intertidal ecology of the California coast will also be considered as opportunity permits.

Survey Sites

The following are scheduled survey sites. Unscheduled survey sites may also be included as opportunity arises.

White Rock State Marine Conservation Area, Cambria CA
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Pacific Grove CA
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Moss Beach CA
Bodega and Bodega Head State Marine Reserves
Gerstle Cove State Marine Reserve
MacKerricher State Marine Conservation Area


Study Design
This study has two objectives.
1. Conduct a general survey of central California sites to establish baselines for later monitoring.
2. Monitor one species in particular (Lottia Gigantea) in one base location (Fitzgerald Marine Reserve) and several secondary locations.

Mapping Resources

Use the following mapping resources to describe accurately locations surveyed.

Geological Survey Maps
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/pdfcharts/.
Google Earth.

On site mapping.
a. Visual scanning with meter quadrats along selected transects.
b. Geotagged photoquadrats along selected transects.

Environmental Conditions

Record conditions at each site visited, throughout tidal intervals.
“Physical descriptions of each study area (e.g. date, time, tidal stages, wave heights, air and water temperature, cloud cover, and salinity) should be recorded at the time of each visit.” Littler and Littler, 1985 Nondestructive Sampling.

a. Identify substrates.
b. Monitor tidal flow.
c. Record wave action.
d. Describe and photograph shoreline profile.
e. Measure water temperatures.
Measure temperature stratification, and measure temperature
over time intervals.
f. Measure salinity and specific gravity.
g. Monitor pH levels.

Biological Characteristics

Observe and record the following information for species encountered at survey sites.

a. Zonation.
Distribution of invertebrate and plant species in the high, middle, low tidal zones, and the sublittoral, with regard to prevailing conditions.

b. Species inventory.
Measure abundance of invertebrate and plant species throughout the tidal zones and across the survey site.

Size frequency.
Size Frequency

Example of counts of animal by different sizes in a particular quadrat

Population distribution.
Balanus Distribution 2

Balanus Distribution

Examples of occurrence of barnacles by size through intertidal zones

c. Species interaction.
Predation, commensalism, parasitism.

d. Sea Star Wasting syndrome.
Record instances of sea star wasting syndrome and any observable impact upon mussel communities.  Report data to www. sickstarfish.com/static/help‎, where die-offs along the Pacific Coast are tracked.

References for Methods

“Methods for Performing Monitoring, Impact, and Ecological Studies on Rocky Shores,” Steven N. Murray, et. al., U.S. Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, Pacific OCS Region, Camarillo CA, and Southern California Educational Initiative, Marine Science Institute University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, March 2002.

Littler, M. M. and D. S. Littler. 1985. Nondestructive Sampling. Pages 161-175 in M. M. Littler, and D. S. Littler, editors. Handbook of phycological methods. Ecological field methods: macroalgae. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Related research topics

Garrity, S. D. 1984. Some adaptations of gastropods to physical stress on a tropical rocky shore. Ecology 65: 559-574.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Failing Sea Star Populations Along the California Coast,

Murray, S.N. 1997. Effectiveness of marine life refuges on southern California shores. California and the World Ocean 1997. 1453-1465.

Addessi, L. 1994. Human disturbances and long-term changes on a rocky intertidal community. Ecological Applications. 4:786-797.
Metaxas, A., & Scheibling, R.E. (1993). Community structure and organization of tide pools. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 98, 187-198.

Kido, J.S. and S.N. Murray. 2003. Variation in owl limpet Lottia gigantea population structures, growth rates, and gonadal production in southern California rocky shores. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 257: 111-124.

Pombo, O.A. and A. Escofet. 1996. Effect of exploitation on the Limpet Lottia gigantea: A field study in Baja California (Mexico) and California (USA). Pacific Science. 50 (4):393-403.

Smith, E.H. 1993. James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve Baseline and Carrying Capacity Study. Harding Lawson Associates Technical Report prepared for the County of San Mateo, Department of Environmental Services, 158 pp.

Kido, J. S. 2000. Variations in the structure of Lottia gigantea Sowerby (Owl Limpet) populations among and within sites on southern California rocky shores. M. S. Thesis, California State University, Fullerton.

Hunt, H.L., & Scheibling, R.E. (1995). Structure and dynamics of mussel patches in tide-pools on a rocky shore in Nova Scotia, Canada. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 124, 105-115.

Hunt, H.L., & Scheibling, R.E. (1996). Physical and biological factors influencing mussel (Mytilus trossulus, M. edulis) settlement on a wave-exposed rocky shore. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 142, 135-145.

Suchanek, T.H. 1979. The Mytilus californianus community: studies on the composition, structure, organization, and dynamics of a mussel bed. Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Zoology, University of Washington, Seattle, pp. 286.

N. Scott Rugh, Differences in Shell Morphology between the Sibling Species Littorina scutulata and Littorina plena (Gastropoda: Prosobranchia), Department of Biology, San Diego State University, The Veliger, October 1 1997.

Littler, Mark, and Diane S., Effects of Stochastic Processes on Rocky-Intertidal Biotas: An Unusual Flash Flood near Corona del Mar, California, Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences, 86(2), 1987, pp. 95-106.

Ricketts, Edward F. and Jack Calvin, Between Pacific Tides, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 1981.

Carefoot, Thomas H., Pacific Seashores: A Guide to Intertidal Ecology, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1977.

Author’s experience

James Landers is an amateur naturalist, and a paleontology volunteer with California State Parks, Borrego Springs CA. Pertinent lab and field experience includes work with (1) Hopkins Marine Station, Pacific Grove CA, pretesting marine biology chemistry classroom experiments (1965); (2) Pacific Marine Station, Dillon Beach CA, and Academia Sinica, Nangang, Taiwan ROC, collecting, preserving and shipping specimens of the marine gastropod Turridae (1967); and (3) a field study of an owl limpet Lottia Gigantea community at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Moss Beach CA (2001).