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Life on the Edge


Explore the sea life of Puget Sound tide pools.

Ready to get your hands wet? This is the exhibit for you. Life on the Edge is your chance to get up close and personal with the many fascinating creatures that dwell in the tide pools of Washington State’s outer coast and Puget Sound’s inland sea.

Step up, lean over and reach in – watch what happens when you gently stroke a sea cucumber. Test your fingertips against the prickly spines of a sea urchin. Follow the scuttling steps of a hermit crab. Notice how, even though they seem to be completely still, sea stars are always moving. Inhale the rich scent of seawater.

Naturalists are always nearby to identify the animals in the exhibit, answer questions and deepen your knowledge about Puget Sound. Even if you opt not to get your hands wet, you’ll still be enriched by the beautiful sights, smells and sounds of this exhibit.

Giant Pacific octopus arm

Portraits of the Salish Sea by Bruce Kerwin

Bruce Kerwin’s fascination with the intricacies of biology brings a bright perspective to life below the Salish Sea. His passion for exploring, from the depths of the Queen Charlottes to the southern waters of Hood Canal, have earned him several awards—most recently, grand prize in the SeaDoc Society’s Salish Sea in Focus contest, and best underwater photograph and best of show in the Gallery North’s Northwest Water Views competition. Bruce’s work has also been featured in Pacific Northwest Diver magazine.

Artist’s statement:

The two-dimensional medium is only reminiscent of the visceral experience. My mind holds a multi-dimensional image overlaid with sound, the current’s pull, water’s depth, darkness, light, cold creeping into my core. I want to share the excitement of seeing something in a new way, discovering creatures I haven’t seen before, secretly observing the complex interplay between animals. It’s a cold, beautiful, fleeting world captured in a photograph.

I’m a scientist by training with a Ph.D. in biochemistry. I look for patterns, symmetry, unusual characteristics—they make for interesting photographs. The octopus with its increasing pattern of suckers along the length of its arm is a favorite, exemplifying everything I love about the undersea world.

I can’t be whole without the ocean nearby. I hope to bring you the joyful celebration of beauty below the surface: the diversity of animals, incongruity of plants, colors creating visual pandemonium, and the contrast with the terrestrial world. I hope you’ll walk away with a sense of wonder, thinking about what lies below the Salish Sea’s steely surface.

Creatures you're likely to see

Hermit Crabs

There are over 500 species of hermit crabs around the world.

Sea Star

Sea stars don’t have brains but are still able to detect light!

Sea Anemone

These creatures can survive at depths of more than 32,000 feet.