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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CWU chapter.

With summer approaching, one of my favorite activities is tide pooling. Growing up in Washington State, my family would often go to the rocky beaches that surrounded my hometown to look for little critters. Some days may be luckier than others, but there are a few tips and tricks to maximize what you can find.  

When choosing a day to go tidepooling, it is important to check the tides. The easiest way is to google the beach and “tide schedule”. The top website or two should show the high and low peaks on a graph, you will want to go to the beach when it’s the lowest, meaning the highest negative number, as long as it’s a reasonable hour. 

Another thing I learned is to wear closed-toed shoes. Rocky beaches with slick seaweed can be a bit slick, so wearing sturdy shoes will help you avoid scrapes and cuts from rocks and barnacles. 

Take your time looking. Not all animals have bright colors, many crabs have a similar color to the surrounding rocks. As always, make sure to follow leave-no-trace practices. Leave all shells and other organic materials at the beach as they provide habitat, homes, and camouflage for the critters that live in the area. Many tidepool animals can also be sensitive, so make sure to be gentle and step lightly. 

Some of the common tide pool animals fall into a few main phylums of classification: mollusks, arthropods, echinoderms, and cnidarians. Despite the classification differences, I find these animals fascinating, as they do not have blood or a brain! Sea stars are in the echinoderm group, which means “spiny skin”. Other animals in this classification include sea cucumbers and sea urchins. Sea stars are one of my favorite tide pool animals as they have a “water vascular system”, meaning that they pump water through their body instead of blood. They allow this water inside and use it to propel their tube feet at the bottom of their body! There are also so many different textures on sea stars. My favorites are bat sea stars (that have a basketball-like texture), leather sea stars (that are a bit softer), and ochre sea stars (that have a bumpy texture).

Although sea stars are my favorite, mollusks may be easier to find. This group includes clams and mussels, easily distinguished by the “bi-valve” shape. Bi-valve critters have two, mostly symmetrical sides and hold water inside their shell during low tides. 

Cnidarians are “those that sting” which includes jellyfish and sea anemones. Sea anemones are also quite easy to find in western Washington. However, if the tide is too far out, they may have pulled the top part in to retain water. When covered by water, the top part (that often looks like little party streamers) is swaying out and about in order to catch food and bring it to the base of the body. Although they can sting, many in Washington state are not harmful to humans, as your skin is thick enough that it only feels sticky to the touch. My favorite type of anemone is the plumose anemone, as they have a feather looking top. 

The ocean is a whole other world to explore and tidepools are a fun way to get started. Have fun, be safe, and make sure to respect wildlife.

Hello, my name is Enjoli and I am double majoring in Primate Behavior & Ecology and Anthropology. I am very passionate about animals and conservation. In my free time I love painting, hiking, baking, and other forms of creating.