Biology students at Sierra Nevada College watched harbor seals sunning on the beach at Point Lobos State Reserve in California, on a spring field course in animal diversity.
SNC biology students studying animal diversity found plenty of fascinating examples during a weekend trip to the California coast.

Marine Diversity on the California Coast

SNC biology students studying animal diversity found plenty of fascinating examples during a weekend trip to the California coast. After all, animals first evolved in the oceans. The dramatic differences between marine and land habitats produce some fascinating results!

Monterey Bay Aquarium

March 31, 2018
We spent Saturday at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Aquarium is a great resource because its exhibits focus on replicating real marine habitats in their full complexity. There’s a 28-foot deep kelp forest; a huge open sea tank; and resident sea otters. The shark-friendly Monterey Bay exhibit highlights five different habitats beneath the bay, with all the amazing creatures that live there. There are also tropical coral reefs, penguins, giant octopus, and plenty of opportunities to watch all sorts of creatures up close. And as an educational and scientific organization, the Aquarium has excellent interpretive materials.

Biology students at Sierra Nevada College found a hermit crab in search of a bigger shell at the Monterey Aquarium during a field course in animal diversity.A hermit crab in search of a more spacious shell.
Biology students at Sierra Nevada College found honeycomb and zebra moray eels at the Monterey Aquarium during a field course in animal diversity.Honeycomb and zebra moray eels.
Biology students at Sierra Nevada College found brilliant tropical fish in the Viva Baja exhibit at the Monterey Aquarium during a field course in animal diversity.Brilliant tropical fish in the Viva Baja tank.

One challenge for the students was to find representatives of as many animal phyla as they could. They also looked for ways in which animals adapt to their habitats. How do fish “hide” from predators in the open ocean, or cuttlefish change the color of their skin in seconds?

That night we stayed at a group campground in Veteran’s Memorial Park, right in the city of Monterey, CA. The science and ODAL programs have accumulated awesome camping gear, so we were quite comfortable. That evening we made an open campfire on Pebble Beach, and cooked shish-kabobs and s’mores over the coals. We watched hundreds of tiny sandpipers following the waves to dig up their dinner. They scurry down the sand, pecking for tiny invertebrates as waves recede. Then they race back up as the waves come in, as if they hate to get their feet wet. It was vastly entertaining.

Biology students at Sierra Nevada College watched sandpipers race up and down the beach pecking for their dinner on Pebble Beach in Monterey, on a field course in animal diversity.Sandpipers race up and down the beach pecking for their dinner on Pebble Beach.
Biology students at Sierra Nevada College camped overnight at Veterans Memorial Park in Monterey on a spring field course in animal diversity.Early morning in the campground at Veterans Memorial Park.
The John Steinbeck monument on Cannery Row in Monterey. Steinbeck is top, with seagull.The John Steinbeck (top, with seagull) monument on Cannery Row in Monterey.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

April 1, 2018
Sunday morning, we went to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve to see marine mammals, birds, and coastal plant communities in the wild. Within 10 minutes of parking, we saw bottlenose dolphins and a gray whale mother and calf. There were harbor seals, sea lions, and sea otters, sunning themselves on the rocks and fishing. On the cliffs we spotted pelagic cormorants, and pigeon guillemots building nests in crevices.

Biology students at Sierra Nevada College had a campfire on Pebble Beach in Monterey on a spring field course in animal diversity.Campfire and s’mores on Pebble Beach in Monterey.
Biology students at Sierra Nevada College watched a cormorant on the cliffs at Point Lobos State Reserve in California, on a spring field course in animal diversity.A cormorant on the cliffs at Point Lobos State Reserve.
Biology students at Sierra Nevada College on a cliff overlooking Pt Lobos State Reserve during a spring field course in animal diversity.The Pacific Ocean from Point Lobos.

The Environmental Sciences at SNC Tahoe

header photo: harbor seals on the beach at Point Lobos.

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