Company Culture Blog: Feat. Nicole’s Extra Curricular Activities

Written by: Nicole Miller

At TC Legend Homes, our crew is dedicated to sustainability and environmentalism even outside of work. One of the ways crew member Nicole shows this dedication is through citizen scientist volunteering. With a degree in Environmental Science and a passion for marine biology, she puts these to work volunteering through RE Sources participating in their Intertidal Monitoring. She has participated in 5 seasons of the monitoring starting in 2014. The monitoring consists of specialists and citizens alike taking data on the intertidal zone at the Cherry Point and Fidalgo Bay aquatic reserves. Specifically looking at things like the beach elevation, substrate and what species are living in each section of the intertidal zone.

In the pacific northwest, we pride ourselves on our beautiful landscape, with the mountains to our East and ocean to our West. We love spending time at both but seem to forget the impacts humans have on these ecosystems or were simply not taught what magical worlds lie within. That’s where monitoring comes in! These data sets provide snapshots into the health of the intertidal ecosystem which is crucial as the globe experiences higher temperatures. These aquatic reserves are also located around the refineries, which means the data will act as a baseline in case there is ever any kind of oil spill or other catastrophic event. That way the refineries can be properly held accountable, and we know what species were affected.

RE Sources hosts many different volunteering opportunities across many fields if you want to get involved! For a list of marine biology related volunteer opportunities visit https://www.re-sources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/NSS-Menu-booklet-2023.pdf.

For other volunteer opportunities visit https://www.re-sources.org/sign-up/.

Now for the fun part…pictures!

Firstly, let’s look at what even constitutes the intertidal zone. The intertidal zone is the point between high tide and low tide, otherwise known as the foreshore. The backshore is the portion that only gets covered in water in extreme high tides/weather events and is often where we hang out on the beach.

For the surveys, profile lines are setup running from the backshore to the water line and transect line are run perpendicular at the +1, 0 and -1 tides. On those transects, quadrats are placed to take data from.

Here’s an example of what one of those quadrats may look like.

The goal is to identify everything big and small. On the left is a moon glow anemone and on the right in the circle is an itty-bitty sculpin (fish) blending in with the shell debris and sand. Notice the barnacles attached the rock below the sculpin and the green seaweed.

The specialists flipped this rock and found multiple different sea stars, a chiton (the plated creature toward the top of the rock) and sea sponges (notice the orange and white splotches). Disclaimer: if you flip a rock on the beach, please be sure to *gently* place the rock *exactly* back in the orientation in which you found it to ensure the safety of the critters living on and under the rock. Otherwise, you may squash the critters or leave them exposed to dry up and die. And I think we can all agree that we don’t want that!

Keep in mind that you don’t have to lift up rocks to observe some cool critters! Here you can see a couple of purple Pisaster sea stars on the side of the rock and the end of a sea cucumber (orange) poking out from under it. This rock didn’t need to be touched to see these beautiful creatures!

Sometimes you’ll see something like this in the middle of a sandy area. These are two sea anemones buried in the sand and protecting themselves during the low tide. Be careful not to step on them! Or any sea critters for that matter.

The intertidal zone is a very biodiverse area that can be fun to explore. Once you know how to look, you’ll start noticing more and more life!

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