Beach naturalists’ first day at Golden Gardens

Out for the first time this year,  a crew of Seattle’s beach naturalists today were out wading through tide pools of eel grass at Golden Gardens, educating a group of kids about snail egg cases, crabs, and barnacles.

Naturalists Cari Garand and David Hagert

Cari Garand is with the Seattle Aquarium, and says exploring the beach is one of the best parts of her job. She helps identify interesting beach creatures, and educates beach-goers about how to tread lightly on what is actually a nature reserve. “The eel grass is an amazing habitat. It’s like a nursery,” Garand says. Indeed, salmon, snails, and crabs all feed and grow off the eel grass, which is left vulnerable at low tide. Another naturalist, Jesse McCoy, says, “You become Godzilla,” when tromping through exposed grass.
A little girl runs up to Garand with what looks like a piece of garbage. “Oh that’s an egg case!” Garand says, and explains how moon snail casings are actually eggs mixed with sand and slime.

Garand, pointing out a moon snail egg case

Jesse McCoy has been a volunteer beach naturalist for three years. He says it’s nice way to get out of the office; he’s a pharmaceutical sales representative when he’s not exploring the beaches. He used to teach high school biology, and likes being able to educate people about all the cool things lurking around in the salty pools. “The coolest thing on the beach is a nudibranch,” says McCoy. That’s a sea slug, just like what you might find in your garden, only prettier, he says with a grin.  “It’s the best thing to find.”

Naturalist Jesse McCoy and Garand

The beach naturalists will be at many Seattle beaches and parks for the next two months. To find out when they’ll be back, visit the Seattle Aquarium’s website.

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