Beach Watchers find critters during low tides

"Yvonne Palka reaches into a hole and comes up with a ghost shrimp and worm. Both were inventoried for future reference.Jim Larsen, staff photoWhat did they find?Lots of creatures live in the muck and can easily be found when the tide goes out. Here's what the Beach Watchers found in Langley, with the common name when available followed by the scientific name in parentheses.GREEN SEAWEEDS: Sea Hair (Enteromorphia sp.), and Sea Lettuce (Ulva sp.).BROWN SEAWEED: Rockweed (Fucus sp.).RED SEAWEEDS: Laver (Gracillaruiopsus lemaneiformis, Porphyra sp.WORMS: Nereis velillosa, Emplectoneme gracile.ISOPODS: Gnorismosphaeroma oregonense, Idotea wosenskii.AMPHIPOD: Beach hopper (Traskorchestia trankiana).BARNACLE: Acorn barnacle (Balanus glandula).SNAILS: Sitka periwinkle (Littorina scultulata), checkered periwinkle (Littorina sitkana).LIMPET: Mask limpet (Tectura persona).CRABS: Yellow shore crab (Hemisgrapsus oregonensis), grainy hand hermit crab (Pagurus granosimanus), hairy hermit crab (Pagurus hirsutiusculus).BIVALVES: Cockle (Clinocardium nuttallii), softshell clam (Mya arenaria), Pacific blue mussel (Mytilus trossulus).SHRIMP: Bay ghost shrimp (Callianasa californiensis), smooth bay shrimp (Crangdon stylirostris -- probable).SEA STARS: Sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides), giant pink star (Pisaster brevispinus).SAND DOLLAR: Denraster excentricus.SLUG: Melanochlamys diomedes (not a true nudibranch or sea slug).FISH: Sand lance (Ammodytes hexapterus).Sea creatures in Langley were exposed by a low tide recently and recorded for posterity by Beach Watchers.The Beach Watchers, a group of volunteers sponsored by Island County WSU Extension, are keeping tabs on 26 Island County beaches to seek how creatures living there fare through the years.The platoon of women was fortunate that the tideflat muck was comparatively supportive this year. Last year we were up to our knees in the sand and bailed out early, said Barbara Graham.It's not as simple as walking out onto the beach and counting creatures. First, the volunteers had to make sure they had returned to the same place as last year.In charge of finding the proper location was Phyllis Kind, a retired professor of microbiology. She triangulated using coordinates established last year: the first crack in the Langley seawall, Lowell Point on Camano Island, and Camano Head. Working with sticks and strings, Mary Jo Adams, Yvonne Palka, Gloria Wahlin and Julie Buktenica marked the level at the even tide mark, positive one-foot mark and minus one-foot mark.Then they started counting species.The end result of over an hour of digging by hand in the muck was 27 species, including five kinds of seaweed and 22 critters, as Kind calls them.The volunteers were well trained for the assignment, having spent two days a week for two months in day-long Beach Watcher classes. I've been an educator for 30 years, but this program is just amazing. The quality is fantastic, said Mary Jo Adams.As they worked, eagles and osprey soared overhead and the sunshine warmed their backs. It's a combination of good science and good fun, said Buktenica.These or other Beachwatchers will return to the same place next year and every year to count species again, as they will on 25 other county beaches.We're seeing if things change over the years, Graham said. "

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