By: Lauren Farley
Due to COVID-19, this year we were unable to open the beloved Touch Tank Hut located in Dartmouth. However, we still wanted to find a way to bring the ocean to eye level and engage everyone with amazing local marine life. And thus, Tidal Trekkers was born!
We like to describe our Tidal Trekkers programs as coastal field trip adventures. We had four different unique programs in total that were carried out over the summer at different waterfront locations around the Halifax area. And let me tell you, it was a blast! I was able to attend almost all the treks that took place and I would love to share some of my favourite memories that took places over the summer!
Top 4 Favourite Memories!
Coming in at #4 is the Hartlen Point crabs. Our first Trek at Hartlen Point was one of my favourites because the location was absolutely beautiful and I could’ve stayed there to look for periwinkles and tiny crabs under the rocks for the whole day. During this Trek we had a wonderful volunteer snorkeler (shout-out to Stefan) look for some cool animals a bit farther in the water than we could walk out too. He came back with two gorgeous rock crabs (Cancer irroratus)!
Crabs are one of my favourite animals to spot around the Nova Scotian intertidal area. If they look familiar, it’s because they are quite common, however still very neat to find! I think one of my favourite things about rock crabs is that they are not green crabs and will probably not try and pinch me unless I’m really annoying it, but I always treat my crab friends with the upmost respect.
Photo: A very excited Lauren (left) and two crabs in a bucket (right)
"There is so much love for and knowledge of the ocean to be shared, it is a fantastic undertaking you have there to share your passion with our young people in order to cultivate respect for our environment." - Quote from participant
My #3 favourite Tidal Trekker memory is ….. algae! I know, this may sound weird. Out of all the cool things we were able to spot I choose to talk about algae? Well, after doing lots of research on all the living organisms that we can find in intertidal areas, I have found a new love for algae. I learned just how cool and important algae is.
A fun fact about algae are that Green Algae have their own built-in anchors called holdfasts that keep them from drifting away into the sea so that they’re always able to reach the sun for photosynthesis. Crazy! During our last Tidal Trekkers of the year we went back to Hartlen Point after Hurricane Teddy and there was so much algae washed up onto the beach that there was no sand in sight!
Algae after hurricane Teddy (photo: Magali Grégoire)
“We LOVED the trek. My daughter enjoyed learning about how to become a marine biologist and what type of work they do. As an adult, I had no idea sea stars were so close to the shore!” -Quote from participant
Now it’s time for #2! My second favourite Tidal Trekkers memory has to be: Sea Stars! Or one sea star in particular. During one of our last treks we spotted the biggest sea star EVER! Now, I don’t like to brag but I am pretty familiar with the stars of the sea and when I tell you this is the largest sea star I have ever seen, I am not lying. This enthralling echinoderm was bigger than my head (see picture below).
It's not unlikely for a Common Sea Star (Asterias rubens) to get this large in size, but it is pretty rare to find one that big so close to the shore. Other species can get even bigger with the largest sea star species being the sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) that can reach an arm span of 1 metre and weighing up to 11 pounds!
Photo: "Enthralling echinoderms"
“The staff and volunteers were amazing. It’s a great program and I hope you consider running it when the threat of COVID is over.” -Quote from participant
And now for the moment you have continued reading this far for, my #1 memory….
Getting to nerd out about the ocean all summer long! This might be a bit anti-climactic, but in all truthfulness, getting to share my love for the oceans and all the wonderful and wacky creatures in it was a dream come true. I looooooove to talk ocean and I’m sure my roommates were very happy I was able to talk to some other people for a change and give them a small break (just kidding, they love my ocean facts…I hope). Every trek we found something super cool and got to talk about all the astonishing animals and species that call the ocean home. If you were able to leave our treks learning even just one thing, then I did my job, and I definitely had fun doing it!
Photos: Lauren nerding out over ocean finds
I would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who was able to join us on a trek this summer and for making my summer full of ocean love.