Coastal Minded is an online magazine created by Oceanography students at San Lorenzo Valley High School in California

The Coolest Thing in the Pools

By Cassidy White

When we go to the beach, most of us are looking for a cool shell, or a sand dollar that is fully intact. We go to the tidepools looking for starfish and anemones… not sea mussels.

Well, just as we all say don’t judge a book by it's cover, you could say in this case we shouldn’t judge a crustacean by it’s shell. More often than not you will find mussels in large clusters on big patches of rocks. In a rocky intertidal zone, the majority of the substrate (the fancy term for rocks in this case) will be covered in mussels, because they are very territorial. I know, it’s weird to think of a sea mussel being aggressive but bare with me. Mussels attach themselves to a substrate by virtually extending roots, called byssus threads. These keep the mussel attached to the substrate during high tides. Mussel colonies will grow in size until there is no more rock for them to cover, if there is no predators in the area. One of the largest threats to the mussel species is that of sea stars. That’s right, starfish are one of the few wild species able to pry open their shells. In recent years the sea mussel population has been increasing up and down the Eastern Pacific coastline due to a flesh eating bacteria that has caused most of the starfish population to die off. Seastar Wasting Syndrome, as it is more formally known, has created a perfect real-life example of what happens when one organism is removed from an incredibly diverse food-chain.

When the seastars are not maintaining the balance of the ever growing mussel population, the colonies grow and overpopulate the substrate. This has presented a problem to the rocky intertidal zone, because the aggressive nature of the sea mussels, and their tendency not to share, has left many other species unable to find something to latch on to, so they get swept out to sea.

Now if you are a seafood lover, and were considering taking the mussel population control into your own hands, fear not, the starfish population is slowly coming back- and trust me anyone who has ever had bad mussels will agree with me on that. Every year many people go out to their local tidepools and take a few mussels home with them to cook and eat. There would be nothing wrong with this, but a common occurrence just past the rocky intertidal zone known as a red tide can cause mussels to become toxic to humans.

A red tide is classified by the red-ish color that the sea water turns due to an excessive amount of poisonous algae in the water. Mussels being filter feeders, naturally get their nutrients from what goes floating by in the water. So, if there is toxic algae in the water, there is toxic algae in the mussels. Although this does not affect the mussels, as they have developed an immunity, humans have not been so lucky.

Tide pools are known in the science community for being some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the Earth’s surface. They have hundreds of species within them but there are a few species, known as keystone species that hold the ecosystems together. Tidepools rely on sea mussels to maintain the balance that has somehow been established in the intertidal zone, where waves are constantly crashing on these resilient creatures. So the next time you go to the tidepools looking for a sea urchin or starfish with six legs, say hello to the sea mussels too… after all they are what holds the rocky intertidal zone together.

Below left photo: Sea mussel anatomy

Below right photo: Red tide

Bioluminescence

By Josh Halper

Have you ever thought about the animals living in the depths of the ocean? As you go deeper and deeper into the ocean more and more light is absorbed. If you have ever thought about giant squids or maybe angler fish, in an angler fishes lantern somehow it produces light. When you get to very great depths the only light is coming from the living creatures that lurk down there. This light is called bioluminescence. Bioluminescence was first discovered in 1920.

In Great Britain the coal miners would use fish skins as a weak form of light. E. Newton Harvey published a book called The Nature of Animal Light; it talked about early ideas of bioluminescence. He talks about how Aristotle had recorded that dead fish produced light. Even Charles Darwin noted the luminescence of the Dionaea genus of jellyfish. In the cold war the U.S. looked into having biolumines lights for their submarines.

Bioluminescence is chemiluminescence or light created by a chemical reaction. Certain fish deep down have the light emitting pigment luciferin, named from lucifer, as in the devil. Inside of luciferin is the enzyme luciferase. When luciferase combines with oxygen it creates light. When this reaction occurs, CO2 and adenosine monophosphate are released as byproducts of the light reaction. This byproduct can be helped by things like calcium or magnesium ions. The creation of light from the luciferase reaction can happen either outside of the cell or inside it. Another way that organisms make light is through aequorin, this is another photoprotein, if calcium is introduced to aequorin its catalysis creates a small bright flash unlike the long lasting glow of luciferase. (Pictures Provided by Pexels.com and Flickr.com)

The East Pacific Rise

By Zach Rose

The East Pacific Rise is a Mid-ocean ridge that begins along the coastal region of Baja California, and ends almost parallel to the southern end of South America. It is a divergent plate. Divergent plate boundaries are places where tectonic plates are pulling away from each other. When areas of the mantle are exposed, they are relieved of pressure and melt and cool. This leads to the formation divergent boundaries.

This particular ridge has caught the eyes of scientists since the 80’s because of the unusual speed that the two diverging plates are moving away from each other. The two plates: the Cocos Plate and the Pacific Plate, are separating at a rate of about four and a half inches per year. This rapid rate of divergence could potentially cause a major earthquake and has caused many volcanic eruptions.

A volcanic eruption was recorded in 1991, all surrounding life was wiped out. Not long after, life returned, which allowed scientists to study the colonization of a barren habitat. Another eruption occurred in 2005, and the process started all over again. It is likely that another eruption will occur within the next five to six years.

The Rise is lined with hydrothermal vents, which provide homes to many different organisms, which also made it a prime location for studies. These vents are called “Black Smokers.” Black Smokers resemble black pillars, and are full of sulfur. They serve as incubators and are great for supporting life. Unfortunately for them, every fifteen years or so, eruptions occur along the ridge and everything starts over again.

Whale Sharks

By Ben Capwell

When people think of sharks they imagine large bloodthirsty creatures roaming the ocean in search of a meal to chomp on. However, this is not always the case. The whale shark could not be more different than those stereotypes.

The whale shark is the largest fish in the world. The whale shark can weigh up to twenty tons (40,000 lbs) and can reach lengths of about forty feet. It is the whale shark’s large whale-like size and appearance that gives it its name. The whale sharks has a large mouth that is capable of opening to a size of about 4.9 feet across and contain over 300 teeth and ten pads. It is not entirely known how long a whale shark's life is, but it has been estimated to around 100 years.

The whale shark is mostly found in tropical waters, however some have been spotted in colder waters. Whale sharks are found in coastal and open waters. Whale sharks have been known to venture into shallow water in order to feed. Whale sharks have also, for reasons unknown, been recorded to dive up to depths of 3,000 feet and greater.

Unlike most sharks, whale sharks feed mostly on plankton and other small aquatic creatures. Whale sharks have a reputation for being some of the most docile sharks in the world. Whale shark feed similarly to whales, swimming with their mouths open in order to catch plankton and other small creatures. Whale sharks are usually solitary creators, spending much of their time alone, but groups have been known to come together in order to feed and mate. While these gentle creatures usually pose no threat to humans, diving with whale sharks remains controversial because of possible injuries and behavioral modifications to the shark.

The S.S. Palo Alto

By Kelsey Clark

If you want to see a shipwreck in Santa Cruz you can go see the S.S. Palo Alto which sits at the end of a wooden pier at Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, California. The S.S. Palo Alto has an interesting history; it was built out of concrete as a tanker ship to be used during World War I. Soon after the war it was then moved into Oakland until 1929, when she was bought by the Seacliff Amusement Corporation and brought to Seacliff State Beach. A year later a wooden pier was built between the beach and the ship so it could be used as an amusement ship.

Once the ship became an amusement ship a few features were added, such as a dance floor, swimming pool and a cafe. When the Great Depression came around the Seacliff Amusement Corporation went bankrupt, it was then bought by the state of California and stripped of all its attractions and left as an fishing pier. This ship was a popular site at Seacliff State Beach for fishing and sightseeing. The SS Palo Alto is now an artificial reef for marine life like pelicans and other seabirds that perch on the wreck. The algae that grows in the wreck of the ship feeds fish and other sea creatures, and every once in awhile sea lions and other marine mammals visit the wreck to feed on the fish. This ship is an amazing piece of history to see.

A longtime resident of Santa Cruz County said, “It is an interesting historical landmark and once you know the history it will just be interesting from every angle. I really do think that this ship is a site to see and I agree that once you learn the history and what it used to be you will want to see it for yourself.” Recently the ship was torn apart by a storm that brought massive waves breaking off the hull of the ship and it is unknown to what the state is planning to do next with this habitat.

Flame Jellyfish

By Cameron McClemans

The Flame Jellyfish, also known as Rhopilema Esculentum, is a species of jellyfish native to the warm temperatures of the vast pacific ocean. This type of jelly is a very popular seafood in southeastern asia, and is now being bred in ponds before releasing them into the ocean to grow to a mature size. Flame Jellyfish can naturally be found near Western Japan, the East China Sea, the Yellow Sea, the North Malayan Sea, and the Bohai Sea. This Jelly likes to drift with the current and can be found near the surface if weather is favorable.

The Rhopilema Esculentum is a special type of jellyfish because it has a rounded, bell-shaped head that is thick but smooth on the outside. It is fairly small, measured at 2.5cm but maximum size is roughly 10cm. This Jelly has highly branched tentacle-arms that connect at the base, resembling a complex root system. The arms of this jelly can also resembles fire, hence the name, “Flame Jellyfish”. This Jelly is not harmful to humans but it does have a small sting that tends to irritate the skin. It is also a very hostile jellyfish so it must be kept with other Flame Jellies away from other species. The Rhopilema Esculentum has quite a long life span of 12 months compared to other species of Jellyfish. This Jellyfish is also a very popular Aquarium pet in Asia.

The majority of the population of this species can be found in breeding ponds, or Aquatic Tanks, but can still be found naturally in the Bohai Sea and the North Malayan Sea. The food source of this Jellyfish is usually died jellyfish food but it prefers freshly hatched brine shrimp.

Three best places to surf in Santa Cruz

By Cameron Connell

In this article, I’m going to suggest to you the best places in Santa Cruz to find some nice waves. There are a few guidelines that I follow to give a surf spot a score from 1-10. These guidelines consist of the following: wave consistency, population/crowd, and obviously, height and shape. Height and shape go hand-in-hand; if you don’t have one of the two, then it’s not worth going out at all. Without further interruption, here are the best places to surf in Santa Cruz.

My first choice would be at The Hook. The Hook is a great place to surf when the conditions call for it. The Hook serves up good rights and “alright” lefts. The seafloor consists of mainly boulders that can be very sharp. Crowd control is a big issue at The Hook but let's be honest; where is it NOT crowded in Santa Cruz waters? These waves are not for novice surfers so beware before you go jump in.

The second spot that I would go to if The Hook isn’t breaking is Pleasure Point. This spot is about ½ a mile down the street from The Hook. Although these two spots are next to each other, these two spots have completely different characteristics. The point is a very long ride with not a ton of power. Again, a ton of people surf here too. The seafloor is pretty rocky so again, exercise caution when you fall because there is nothing worse than missing good waves because you are in the ER.

My third and final spot that I would choose to go to is Steamer Lane. I made this spot my 3rd priority because Steamer lane and I have a love-hate relationship. The shape of the wave is phenomenal on the right day but the localism there is crazy. A single mess-up there might get you a few “nice words” from the surfers that are there everyday. Its unfortunate that such a nice wave must get ruined by jerks. Seafloor is unknown because I’ve never felt or seen the bottom. The crowd is bad here. There are cliffs, so beware of those as well and good luck out there.

Blue Whales

By Evan Seligman

Blue Whales are one of the most incredible marine animals that have ever existed and are the largest animals in the world. These carnivorous animals can grow up to 82 to 105 feet and can weigh up to two hundred tons. At times an adult whale, will consume four tons of krill in one day. Krill are shrimp-like organisms normally eaten by Baleen whales.

What makes these marine animals so unique is their lifespan, normally a range between 80 and 100 years old, which is not much longer than the average human lifespan. The oldest Blue Whale scientists have discovered was 110 years old, close to the oldest person that is still alive at 117 years old. Some also wonder why these whales make strange moaning sounds. Not only are Blue Whales the largest but they are also one of the loudest animals on the planet since they groan and moan to communicate to each other and they can hear each other up to 1, 600 kilometers away, that’s 1,000 miles.

It's very helpful for them to use sonar-navigating when determining the lightness of ocean depths. Whales are warm-blooded creatures which means they can deal with cold temperatures. Their body temperature is 38 degrees celsius or 100 degrees fahrenheit. Female blue whales give birth every two years and feed their young with milk from the mother. An average baby blue whale is about twenty-three feet and weighs up to five to six thousand pounds. As of now blue whales that live near the coast of California are known to be the highest concentration of whales in the world now.

Below Left Photo: the blow-hole of a Blue Whale

Below Right Photo: Blue Whales in the Ocean


Drought Status:

Loch Lomond Reservoir

By Malana Olson


This winter season has proven to be quite beneficially to the current drought in California. Rainfall has spiked with recent storms, causing California’s water source to be nearly replenished. This abundance of water has already saturated the state's groundwater, and continues to fill up its lakes and dams, including the Loch Lomond Reservoir. The Loch Lomond Reservoir is a earth fill barrier blocking Newell Creek In Santa Cruz County. Recent rainfall this winter filled up the reservoir to its potential of 2.8 billion gallons by January 4th and the reservoir continued to fill overflow through its spillways. In 2016, the reservoir reached the elevation of 558.7 ft, and this year it has reached 577.3 ft. The spike in rainfall this season marks 2017 as a “wet” year. The Loch Lomond Reservoir serves as the city of Santa Cruz’s main water supply. Many hopeful Santa Cruz locals see the full reservoir as a sign that California is exiting its long lived drought, but that is not the case. In reality, one season of plentiful rainfall is not enough to relieve the California drought, it is going to take a lot more.