Hopefully, for the ecosystem and the beach goers, none.
With the oceans becoming more acidic it is harder for shelled marine critters to build strong outer protection and secondary shellers (like hermit crab) are having trouble finding homes! Each item on the beach, whether it’s shells, crab molts, or rocks plays an important role in the beach’s local ecosystem.
And that is the main message being shared at the seashore during Nearshore Field Trips!
This spring South Sound GREEN hosted 770 students to participate in the Nearshore program. Students ranged between 5th to 8th grade, and came from 6 local schools. The Nearshore program is a field trip that South Sound GREEN offers as a way for students to connect their freshwater monitoring experience with the marine waters of Puget Sound.
For many kids this is the first time seeing some of the different marine species up close and in person, and gives students an introduction to marine biology. “I am thankful for this experience because I got to see new animals in a beautiful place” Aeivet, 5th grader. Through this hands-on program students learn about what affects marine water quality and how their freshwater monitoring site is connected to the Puget Sound. The students get to collect plankton samples, identify the plankton under microscopes, and use a Secchi disk to measure turbidity with Pacific Shellfish Institute. They also get an overview of scuba diving and interact with marine life brought up to the surface by the divers.
Students had the opportunity to explore the subtidal zone at Zittel’s Marina, and then then intertidal zone at Tolmie State Park and Johnson Point Beach. In this nearshore habitat they identified marine life with South Sound Estuary Association’s Beach Naturalists and discovered various adaptations that help the organisms to survive in the different habitat zones. During the programs, 255 volunteer hours were spent helping students to identify over 90 different marine species.
Julia from Lydia Hawk wrote “This was one of my favorite field trips in fifth grade! And thank you for letting our class experience this!” If each person that went to beach to experience the amazing marine ecosystem (like the 770 students in the Nearshore program) collected a souvenir, there would be very little for others to enjoy and even less left for marine critter’s to build their homes.
So remember the next time you’re on a vacation and want to take that beautiful cockle shell home, Life’s a Beach. Or rather Beach = Life.