Fieldwork, research and a happy birthday

The feelings of a parent are intensive. I love research and I adore my kids. If I can combine family time with doing research it makes me complete. Happy. Satisfied.

at the coast

On a much more negative emotion, have you heard that the kelp forests in Northern California are all dying? It all started in 2013 when a disease killed most sea star populations along the Pacific Coast of North America. These starfish are the main predators of purple sea urchins. Sea urchins have since then been thriving. Their main food is kelp! Another problem is the rising of the ocean water temperature. Kelp needs cold temperatures. In 2014 the Pacific waters in California have been exceptionally warm due to global warming on the long term but also El Niño on the short term. Global warming alone is often not the sole cause for extinctions but it makes a system more vulnerable. If other factors like disease outbreaks or natural disasters are added to the equation, their combined effects will cause species to become extinct. Today, more than 90% of the kelp forests are gone. However, kelp forests play a key role in marine ecology. They provide shelter and food for many creatures, including young fish that hide in their stalks and abalone. Abalone are sea snails that apparently taste deliciously. They have very pretty houses that shine like a rainbow. If you go diving down there right now you would see a desert full of purple sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) who are starving but not dying. Interestingly, they keep alive and reproduce. Besides these urchins you would find thousands if not millions of empty abalone shells. What can you do? It is not pretty. Divers are trying now to remove the sea urchins to give the kelp a chance to regrow next spring. Check out this video: removing sea urchins

Abalone snail

The shiny inside of an abalone shell

Two abalone trying to find some food.

I went to a pretty site between Fort Ross and Jenner which is in the middle of this devastating phenomenon for a different purpose. I am planning to work with porcelain crabs in the future. Mostly in Panama. However, I am based in California and sometimes it would be easier to do projects right here. Now I need to find healthy porcelain crab populations to work with.

Petrolisthes cinctipes

Petrolisthes manimaculis

blue P. manimaculis

Spontaneously, as usual, we went to celebrate Jacoby’s second birthday at a beautiful beach with numerous tide pools. Linnea and I investigated the biodiversity, while the guys were enjoying a gorgeous winter sunset.

Creatures in the tide pools:

young dungeness crab

Cancer antennarius – rock crab

giant sea star

solitary anemone

My most precious assistant

Done.

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