LiMPETS: Long-term Monitoring Yields More than Data
If you have been tidepooling at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in the last few years, you may have been lucky enough to see huddles of teens on the reef near Cypress Point. Sitting or kneeling over their quadrats (frames used for monitoring), they laugh, shriek, and shiver. What may look like a school field trip is actually real science in action. These carefully trained students are monitoring algae and invertebrates, and they take their work pretty seriously.
These students, with about 4000 others throughout the state, are participating in LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students). This hands-on program was developed to monitor the coastal ecosystems of California’s national marine sanctuaries to increase awareness and stewardship of these important areas.
Getting up close and personal with the rocky shore inhabitants, touching slimy algae and squishy anemones, taking careful and accurate measurements, is not for everyone. Overall, some students we work with report that they expect the monitoring experience to be “dirty, uncomfortable, and boring”. But afterwards, almost every student reports a changed, more positive attitude about the process of science. Students say the experience was “awesome, amazing, hella fun.” They want to come back and do it again - an unquestionably good outcome in itself.
Beyond the educational value of the LiMPETS program, the power of the LiMPETS network lies in the large quantity of data that is being collected for California’s national marine sanctuaries at more than 60 sites and over 600 miles of coastline. Annually, thousands of students and citizens compile baseline data against which future observations will be compared. By monitoring, students become the eyes and ears of our coastal beaches and rocky shores, detecting changes and possible problems, often before anyone else. Most notably, LiMPETS data is being used to help determine how effective the new system of state marine protected areas (MPAs) are in protecting fish, invertebrates, birds, and other natural resources. LiMPETS data will, in collaboration with other scientific studies, establish a baseline of data for sandy beach and rocky intertidal areas within the MPAs between Pigeon Point and Point Arena.
If all goes well, before long we will know much more about the status of many of the amazing creatures living in the intertidal. Ultimately LiMPETS data, in collaboration with others, will help to protect these diverse, rich ecosystems. And yielding more than just data, LiMPETS brings science alive for students in a way that they think is “amazing”.
Want to know more? Please visit the LiMPETS website at http://limpetsmonitoring.org. All data is available online for query and download. Look for our NEW LiMPETS Field Guide, funded by the Friends of Fitzgerald, available on our website on October 1st, 2012.
Sanctuary Whale Watch Fundraiser - October 14, 2012 – Come with us!
The Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association is hosting an exploration of the seas close around the islands on October 14, 2012. We will be accompanied by some of our most experienced and knowledgeable naturalists. There is only room for a few dozen people, so RSVP quickly if you would like to join us!
The craggy rocks of the Farallon Islands can occasionally be seen poking through the fog from San Francisco, but most people have never seen them up close. This very special trip is an exploration of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the incredible wilderness that begins just beyond the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Sanctuary is home to whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, sharks, fish, and seabirds – an incredible variety of marine life waiting for you to discover it. In many ways, it is like a national park – but this is one that most people visit only by gazing out at the waves. Let our naturalists share with you what lies beneath – what makes this place so special that it is protected. Like our land parks, our ocean parks need help and support from people like you.
One way that you can help is by making a $175 donation and joining us on this trip.
Captain Joe Nazar, the owner of San Francisco Whale Tours, has generously donated his boat the Kitty Kat again this year for us to make this day-long journey. Thanks to Joe’s generosity, your trip donation to FMSA is 100% tax deductible so absolutely all the money we raise will go towards FMSA’s programs in education, oil spill response preparedness, Visitor Center programs, and resource protection
You never know what you will see on a trip to the Marine Sanctuary! Last year we were lucky enough to have magnificent weather and calm seas. We saw a wealth of wildlife including a large leatherback sea turtle, curious sea lions, and regal Risso’s dolphins, among others.
Please download and fill out our trip registration form and return it by September 18th. We expect this trip to fill quickly and space is limited! We hope you will be able to join us, and at the same time, have your fee go directly to the efforts of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association!
White Sharks: How To Best Protect Them?
In August conservation groups petitioned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to place the Northeastern Pacific population of white sharks on the U.S. Endangered Species List. Research suggests a relatively small population of white sharks, representing a genetically distinct population, use the waters off the western United States and Mexico. However, research is still ongoing to determine whether the population may be increasing, decreasing, or remaining steady. The US Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries Services will determine whether white sharks should undergo a full scientific review to consider this additional protection.
Locally, white sharks are most abundant from October through November. In December they begin to move offshore. Tags show that about a fifth swim to Hawaii, but most head for a mid-ocean area between Baja California and Hawaii: the White Shark Café. Males arrive first, later the females. It’s posited that mating occurs there in spring or early. But the café may have another purpose: they may be feeding on large squid. So, is the Café about sex or sustenance – or both?
To promote awareness of sharks, this spring Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and FMSA, in conjunction with the University of San Francisco, sponsored the “Shark Soiree” - an evening of information and activities, including a presentation by white shark researcher, Dr. Sal Jorgensen of the Tagging of Pacific Predators/TOPP program - a scientific consortium, which builds on research begun decades ago by the Point Reyes Bird Observatory.
Dr. Jorgenson characterized white sharks as creatures of habit with very high site fidelity – returning to the same location and on schedule, in a well-defined migratory pattern. One white shark, eponymously named “Tom Johnson” after the naturalist who first photographed him in 1987, has returned to the Farallones 17 consecutive years. We hope to welcome Tom back this fall.
Acoustic receivers off Pt. Reyes, Tomales Point, the Farallon Islands and inside San Francisco Bay have revealed interesting patterns. White sharks unexpectedly “pinged” receivers originally placed in San Francisco Bay to study salmon migration. Tags only register if close to a receiver. To date, thirteen different sharks have been documented this way, including one for which San Francisco Bay is its first Port of Call each year. They’ve been detected near Alcatraz, Pier 33, and Angel Island.
We may see changes in local white shark travel patterns: Since increased white shark sightings at the Farallon Islands correlated with an increase of juvenile elephant seals, and seal haulouts are overcrowded, Point Reyes may yet see an upswing in shark sightings as seals continue to colonize that area.
Meanwhile, the sanctuary will continue to promote conservation-directed research to learn more about this magnificent and ecologically important apex predator.
Proposed Marine Sanctuary Boundry Change
NOAA hosted a series of public scoping meetings Aug. 16 through Sept. 12 to discuss a boundary revision proposal for Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The proposed boundary adjustment would add a 100-square mile area to the sanctuary that was left out when the sanctuary was designated in 1992.
Known as the “doughnut hole,” the urban waters of San Francisco (including San Francisco Bay), Daly City and Pacifica were at the time deemed incompatible with sanctuary regulations and were excluded from sanctuary designation. Since then, however, this area has seen positive effects from environmental regulations, and now has significantly improved water and sediment quality.
The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) is responsible for the administration and management of the northern portion of the MBNMS. In 2008, the Joint Management Plan Review for Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries determined that GFNMS would "facilitate a public process in the next five years to consider whether the exemption area should be incorporated into the MBNMS".
There has been a groundswell of public opinion in support of the inclusion of this area into sanctuary waters. The Gulf of the Farallones Advisory Council has moved unanimously that staff evaluate this action. Additionally, several local researchers have reported increased observations of marine mammals, seabirds, and pelagic species within the exclusion area, including a discrete, local population of harbor porpoise and the rare sevengill shark. In some cases, research shows that the primary habitat for these animals is within the exclusion area.
Proposed Action Upon review of new data from the area, GFNMS has determined that the exclusion area should be evaluated for inclusion into sanctuary boundaries by means of an administrative action. GFNMS believes that there is a high level of support for including the area in question amongst the city, regional, state and federal agencies, as well as the NGO community, recreational and fishing interests and eco-tourism industry.
NOAA published a notice in the Federal Register on Aug. 7 announcing its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement for the proposed boundary revision. For the full Federal Register notice, visit http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/search/pagedetails.action?granuleId=2012-19105&packageId=FR-2012-08-07&acCode=FR
For more information, contact Leslie.Abramson@noaa.gov