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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

June 16, 2011 at 11:47 AM

Minus tide alert: beach volunteers standing by

Stroll our urban beaches during minus tides over the next few days and you could find answers to your questions about sea stars, moon snails and the other fantastic creatures that inhabit a world normally hidden from view.

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Last year’s May minus tide at Carkeek Park

photo by Alan Berner

Volunteer naturalists from the Seattle Aquarium will be on duty Thursday through Sunday, when Puget Sound will pull back the veil. And fortunately for us, the lowest tides will occur mid-day.

“We have this nice cycle where the low tides are during the day in the spring and summer, then very low at night in the winter,” said Janice Mathisen, coordinator for the Beach Naturalists program. Minus tides are simply lower-than-average tides.

Volunteers will be at Richmond Beach, Carkeek Park, Golden Gardens, South Alki, Lincoln Park, Seahurst and Des Moines Beach Park during various hours, depending on each day’s tides. Here’s a searchable tide table.

Volunteers also will be at Olympic Sculpture Park, Redondo Beach and Tillicum Village on Saturday only.

The program has a bumper crop of naturalists this year, with more than 200 signed up for a spring or summer session, Mathisen said.

Of course, you don’t need a guide to just wander and wonder.

“It’s kind of magical,” she said. “One of my favorite things to do is to stop at a particularly rich habitat, like the edge of an eel grass bed, and just watch.”


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Sea stars off Alki Beach in West Seattle, 2009
photo by Laurel Prince

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