Know your beach—this week from the beach

#8 in the 2018 series of guest blog posts by Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists Bobby Arispe and Jen Strongin.

Message from Jen:

Jelly in shallow water

Take a walk north of the Seattle Aquarium along the waterfront. Keep going until you reach the end of the road and you will find an intriguing pathway that leads you into the Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Park. Keep walking along the path until you find the Olympic Sculpture Park Pocket Beach and hang a left. There is something you should know about this little beach right in downtown Seattle - it is alive with wonderful neighbors that breathe water instead of air! 

I had the opportunity to work at this tiny but mighty beach this summer. It makes you realize how intimately connected our urban landscape is to the natural world of the Salish Sea right at our feet.

spiny pink scallop


One of my favorite downtown marine neighbors has to be the spiny pink scallop. They are small and delicate and you have to look carefully to find them (or just ask a naturalist)! Sometimes they open up just enough that you can see their beautiful, shimmery eyes.

Naturalist in octopus shirt

If you are lucky, your naturalist might be wearing a shirt with an octopus on it. All the rock stars like to hang out on the waterfront! 

Shore crab

Purple shore crabs might not be as famous as the stars, but they are always a welcome sight.

Purple shore crab

Living downtown can get a little rough at times! This porcelain crab was missing the tips of his claws, but he seemed determined to defend his home in spite of his injury.


It takes some careful looking, but you can find a variety of tunicates on and under rocks at our downtown beach.

keyhole limpet

Keyhole limpets use their big foot to suction on to the rocks they call home downtown. Every now and then they get dislodged and we get to help them back on their...foot.

sea urchin

This sea urchin skeleton (also known as a test) is evidence that urchins share our downtown shores too. I think they are the ultimate fancy dressers in our urban intertidal zone.


We have frilled dog winkles on all of our Seattle beaches, but I think the downtown dwellers have extra curves and ridges that make them more beautiful than most.

Naturalists viewing tide pools

My home beaches in West Seattle were also chock full of wonderful marine neighbors AND curious and engaged beach visitors. Thanks to all of you who come out to see us. You make our days on the beach so much fun!


Abstract art or....? We have seen some HUGE jellies on our beaches this past month. The yellow blob above was a fried egg jelly that was almost 3 feet across! The red lion's mane jelly seemed teensy in comparison. These species are known to eat one another. The question is...who was eating whom?

Sea star regrowing an arme

Lots of animals in the intertidal zone have the superpower of regeneration. This mottled star was regrowing an arm!

crab with eggs

This large mama red rock crab didn't make it, but maybe her eggs will. You can see her modified legs here called pleopods, (those bits that look like feathers along the egg mass) that help to hold her eggs in place .  Female red rock crabs can carry 180,000 -500,000 eggs!

Midshipman eggs and hatchlings

You may remember seeing images of these eggs or the animal that lays them earlier on the blog this summer. These are the eggs of a plainfin midshipman - hands down one of my favorite fish we see at low tide. The papa midshipman stays with the eggs, which take 45-60 days to develop and hatch out. He fans them, keeps the nest tidy and makes sure the eggs stay hydrated at low tide. He may have up to 1000 eggs to care for!


Here they are! Welcome to the world little baby midshipmen!


These woody chitons are partying like we will be next week as we celebrate the end of another wonderful beach naturalist season. Bobby and I will see you then as we recap some of our 2018 beach highlights!

Meet Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists on local shorelines this summer! Check our website for dates, times, locations and directions.

JenAbout Jen:

Jen writes:

“I ventured westward from Albany, NY and fell madly in love with our city from the moment I arrived. It was 21 years ago this August when Seattle first charmed me with its lush, forested parks, beautiful beaches, and water and mountain views (when the skies are clear enough) all around.

I signed up to be an interpretive volunteer at the Seattle Aquarium in 2013, became a beach naturalist volunteer in 2014, and this will be my third year as an official member of the Seattle Aquarium staff as a beach captain. My favorite place to be is on the beach, with my camera, sharing my love and knowledge of our intertidal dwellers with the hope that I will inspire others to love and protect the Salish Sea and the ocean beyond.”


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