Category Archives: Our Ocean

A day at Torrey Pines State Beach

My mother loves Torrey Pines. We go every time she is in town. It’s been a while, though, since we both walked the whole length of the beach, from the lagoon mouth down past the glider port to Blacks Beach.

We made the trek Saturday at a perfect outgoing low tide, ending with a psychedelic sunset. Not to gloat, but it’s late November and we are wearing sunblock and sunglasses and also, admittedly, pants and long-sleeved shirts. But still, I will take it! It beats snow!

neck of gooseneck barnacle

Gooseneck barnacles grow all bunched up on an intertidal rock at Blacks Beach. Credit: S. Johnson

Jim joined us and being a marine ecologist, he was able to point out invertebrate critters that I and probably most of us never notice. The day’s favorite was a white-plated barnacle, known as the gooseneck or goose barnacle.

Check out the photo (right) and you can see how the intertidal crustacean got it nickname. See the one barnacle (lower left-hand corner) with its long stalk extended? Kinda goose-like, although, to me, they look more like a crowd of Stormtroopers.

In any case, once I started searching for these ancient lifeforms, they could be found “everywhere” along one stretch of beach on rocks in the wet sand.

sunset at torrey pines

The sky on fire at sunset at Torrey Pines. Credit: S. Johnson

Interestingly, there was never a single gooseneck barnacle growing alone. The resident expert explained that the species finds “strength in numbers” and that  young barnacles swim, jump and crawl to hunt for adults of their kind before settling down and gluing themselves head-down on hard substrate.

I am guessing they find each other through chemical sensing, but that is just a guess. Mostly, I think it’s all just amazing. Ditto for the fiery sunset (above).

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Wetland carbon budgets

Historically, marshes, bogs, swamps and other soggy environments have been Earth’s major source of atmospheric methane, a heat-trapping gas 25 more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Today, cattle and rice cultivation are the primary sources of the gas, and the planet is so messed up that people are looking at wetlands in terms of their carbon-credit value.

I am so happy to just focus on the beauty of our natural world, and their value as habitat and home to birds and other animals, and let others do the carbon math.

Wetland carbon budgets.

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Friends in the neighborhood

Friends in the neighborhood

A snowy egret on the Ocean Beach pier. Credit: S. Johnson

California’s saltiest coastal creek

Our Ocean

Malibu Creek is arguably California’s saltiest coastal creek, and according to one water manager, its unusual saltiness – the salt is not from seawater – is due to leaching of minerals from a vast shale rock layer known as the Monterey Shale Formation in the creek’s northern headwaters in the Simi Foothills.

At the recent Headwaters to Oceans (H2O) conference, Randal Orton, the resource conservation manager at the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, gave a 15-minute talk on the evidence for this theory and why it makes sense.

I thought it was pretty interesting because I have heard a lot about Malibu Creek’s water quality problems  –  the septic tanks, the algae and the high bacterial counts, for example – but I had never heard anyone mention the creek’s perpetual brackishness. I had even less of an idea (no clue) on how it might have got this way, which is…

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