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You can help biology researchers understand how California tide pools are changing

"Harris Thiessen" (09/02/2020)

then you have come to the right place. We will be glad to assist you with all of your data recovery needs. - id="article-body" class="row" section="article-body"> A sunburst sea anemone illuminated by ultaviolet fluoresces with bright colors in a tide pool at Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay, California.

Stephen Shankland/CNET I was sloshing around knee-deep in the Pacific Ocean, leaning on my camera tripod to avoid slipping on seaweed, excited to see some nudibranchs -- but utterly failing to find any of the tiny, outrageously colorful sea slugs.

I'd soaked my sneakers for some photographic fun. But searching for nudibranchs is part of the job for Alison Young and Rebecca Johnson, two marine biology researchers with the California Academy of Sciences who fortunately were much more adept at finding the gastropods. They'd led me and a few other nature enthusiasts on a "citizen science" excursion to Pillar Point, a beach 15 miles south of San Francisco that's next to the famed Mavericks big-wave surfing competition near Half Moon Bay, California.

Every two weeks when the tide is particularly low, Johnson and Young wade into the Pillar Point tide pools and stake out one of six plots they've been monitoring since 2012. Their purpose is to track populations of the nudibranchs, starfish, chitons, snails, shrimp and other intertidal zone species.

The two don't work alone, though: They get a lot of help from volunteers. And from technology like iNaturalist, an app anyone can use to log plant and animal sightings with their smartphone. You can also use iNaturalist to see what creatures are in a particular area and get help with identifications.

Johnson and Young's work is part of a movement called citizen science that's helped bring discovery out of academia's ivory tower and into the lives of people who have curiosity and enthusiasm if not an advanced degree.

"I love being able to find an excuse to explore nature. On top of that I love that I'm also able to contribute data to an archive of data," said Jane Kim, a Half Moon Bay artist and illustrator who was on her fourth trip out to the tide pools. Nature is her passion: She's just finishing a 12-story butterfly mural in San Francisco, one of a series of 10 across the country located along monarch migration routes. She also painted the smaller but vastly more detailed Wall of Birds at Cornell University.