Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wildlife Wednesday

After 2 incredible weeks in Alaska and many new experiences under my belt, I am excited to write my first guest blog!  As Heather’s new roommate and fish catching intern I’ll be posting every Wednesday with an update about all the great wildlife that we get to experience up here. Despite cooking salmon every night in a thin trailer we have yet to lure any larger mammals towards us, i.e. Kodiak Bears. But after our first hike yesterday we were able to experience an incredible diversity of animals found in a very tiny and ever changing ecosystem: Tide pools. We started our day in an attempt to hike a trail called Termination Point. Starting down our backyard beach we began climbing over huge rocks (more like boulders really) covered in all manner of slippery substances. After about an hour of careful maneuvering, however, it became clear that we missed the trail…. Turns out our consolation prize was even better! We slowed down and started really investigating these tiny watery habitats. One of the most interesting animals we found were starfish. The most unique was the huge predatory Sunflower Star with an excessive amount of flailing limbs. We then stumbled upon a less alluring dead Mottled Star stuck to the bottom of a rock right next to a gorgeous and tiny bright red Blood Star that really stood out against all the dark hues of the kelp.

Sunflower Star
Blood Star

Crunchy Casualties!
All around them were big sea snails and sharp pointy native Alaska barnacles of every kind. Some, called Acorn Barnacles, were hidden in tiny ugly tubes when the water was gone only to stick out beautiful feathery legs when the tide pools disappeared underwater. And covering rocks in every direction were the ever-present mussels and barnacles, all inter woven with strands of flowing kelp. Each tide pool was different, and each organism unique; truly representative of Alaska as a whole.  

Acorn Barnacles

Try as we might to avoid it, there were a few crunchy causalities in the name of exploration. By the time we started heading back, we were racing the rapidly rising tide that would have left us stranded for the whales to pick off. As we finally reached a connection to the trail we looked back. Just like that, as quickly as we had stumbled upon them, our tiny tide pool habitats had disappeared. We hiked the beautiful cliff side trail back to our home, knowing that while the tide pools were gone, they would inevitably and perpetually resurface in a completely different manner, with one more turn of the moon.

-Elizabeth Fata

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