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Bodega nets large crowd of marine life enthusiasts

By on August 15, 2003 in University News

They might not have gotten particularly wet, but more than 1,500 visitors recently got a look at the world through sea goggles as they immersed themselves in a July 19 open house at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory.

The "Meet the Scientists" event provided a hands-on marine life experiences. Visitors touched starfish, learned about sea mammals and took in spectacular oceanside views from the lab and its surrounding reserve lands.

The Bodega Marine Reserve is a 362-acre protected area that includes rocky shore, sandy beach, mudflat, saltmarsh, sand dune and coastal grassland habitats. The laboratory itself was opened by UC Berkeley 1966 and has been managed by UC Davis since 1984.

Because of the significant preparation involved, open houses like the one held last month are held only every other year. This was the second such event.

Lab tours included a walk on the coastal bluff reserve with guide Rico Tinsman. He urged visitors to walk single-file, noting, "You can destroy a decade of scientific work if you step off the path." Visitors watched harbor seals sunning on the rocks just below the main buildings, and turkey vultures dining on "seakill" in Horseshoe Cove -- a living laboratory just below the main buildings at the laboratory.

In the distance, Bodega Head, a favorite tourist spot with a sweeping view of the ocean, towered over the rocky landscape. Tinsman said 40-mile-per-hour winds are not uncommon in the area.

At the lab's main entrance, visitors checked out a tidepool mesocosm. They learned about shellfish, plant ecology, marsh grasses, marine pollution and toxicology, crustaceans, a winter-run Chinook salmon captive broodstock program and more. They used microscopes to view microscopic plants and animals that live in the spaces between sand grains. Inside, art and science combined at a crafts table where young visitors made decorator crabs from colorful paper.

And popular lab stories were shared. A tour guide recounted the time marine lab employees witnessed a shark snatch and grab a harbor seal off the rocks and "everyone rushed out of their offices to take a look."

Kathy Keatley Garvey of the statewide IPM project at UC Davis said one visitor was overheard saying, "Wouldn't you love to work here with this terrific view of the ocean from your office window?" The response: "I don't think I would get any work done."

Volunteer docents offer lab tours to drop-in visitors every Friday from 2-4 p.m. Further information on group tours is available at (707) 875-2211. Or, for more information, the lab's Web site is located at: http://www.bml.ucdavis. edu/.

-- Dateline staff report