Last Monday, Hana, Katie, Sandeep and I had the chance to go kayaking with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s W.A.T.C.H. teen summer program (Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats).  It was great getting to meet high school teenagers in the area and chat to them about what they’re getting up to with the Aquarium this summer.

Interns go kayaking!

The trip was on Moss Landing’s Elkhorn Slough, which is the second largest area of tidal salt marsh in California besides San Francisco bay.  This is a coastal area between the land and the ocean which is flooded by daily salt water tides.  This means the salinity levels are constantly changing and only plants and animals that have evolved to withstand this type of habitat are found here.  Salt marshes are usually extremely productive areas as the plant life dies, decomposes and becomes a rich source of food for bacteria and larger animals.  The Elkhorn Slough supports hundreds of species of plants and animals, including around 340 species of birds.

One of the commonest birds we saw was the brown pelican – a great story of conservation success!  In the 1970s these birds were severely threatened by the use of the pesticide DDT.  This chemical caused may wetland birds to produce eggs with very thin shells and population numbers dropped as a consequence of low egg survival.  This pesticide was banned in 1972 and the brown pelican is now off the US endangered species list.  They were looking quite happy when we paddled past!

We were also surrounded by sea otters.  As soon as we left the shore we came across a raft of around 20 in the water, then for the rest of the morning there was often an individual or two who would pop up nearby to see what we were up to.

Sea otters in the slough

And, very importantly, none of the interns fell in!!

After kayaking, everyone went back to MBARI for lunch and the four interns gave the group a chat about how each of us got into our subjects and what we hoped to do in the future.  Altogether a great day, thanks again MBA for taking us along!

At the end of next week all the whole intern group is going out kayaking, so there may be some pictures of people falling in to come!

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