When school is out, camp is in. Whether it’s during spring break or summer vacation, our aquarium camp at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium offers the perfect balance of fun and learning for your child in an environment that fosters interaction with 100 species of marine life.
Wondering what your child can expect at camp? Here are some of the fun activities young marine biologists can look forward to at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium camp:
1. Interact with live animals.
Whether you’re having a staring contest with a wolf eel or getting a hug from a sea urchin, you’re sure to fall in love with the animals that call Santa Monica Bay home.
2. Explore the beach like a scientist.
Become a beach detective by looking for clues of life and living animals. The Santa Monica Beach is home to lots of cool critters and we regularly find sea birds, sand crabs, worms, striped shore crabs, and more.
3. Play awesome games.
It wouldn’t be camp without time to just run around and play in the sand, sea, and sunshine.
4. Let your creativity shine with arts & crafts.
Crayons, check. Glue, check. Scissors, check. Streamers, check. Put it all together and you get…an eviscerating sea star! Our ocean crafts are super fun and add the “A” for “Art” into STEAM education.
5. Excite your curiosity with hands-on science.
The minute our campers walk through our doors, they become scientists with us. From looking at plankton under the microscope, to running a test on water density, to dissecting a squid, our camps encourage scientific questioning and experimentation in a safe and educational environment.
6. Have fun with your friends – both new and old.
Whether you come to camp with your buddies, or meet new ones here, camp is always better when you have someone to share the experience.
7. Help protect your favorite animals by becoming an ocean steward.
Just like our Heal the Bay mission, our camp focuses on ways we can protect the ocean and its inhabitants. As we clean trash off of the beach and brainstorm ways to go green, our campers earn the right to call themselves Planet Protectors.
And here’s what some parents are saying about our camps:
“Amazing counselors, well-organized, enthusiastic children and overall excellent!”
“My daughter loved dissecting squid and all the beach activities. This is the second year she has gone to Santa Monica Aquarium Camp and it is her favorite camp of the summer. She loved her counselors and how exciting they all made marine science and ecology to her – she wants to be a marine biologist!”
“First day my son said, ‘I learned a new word, Bioluminescence’ to multiple people!”
Is all this rain a good or a bad thing for greater Los Angeles? It all depends on your point of view, explains Communications Director Matthew King.
As a surfer, I hate the rain. As a Californian, I love it.
The recent series of downpours has kept me out of the ocean for weeks. I’ve gotten violently ill from surfing in water polluted with runoff and have learned my lesson. Maybe the deluge up north has been a boon for our parched state. But we are not out of the desert yet…
Below, we’ve answered our top 10 most frequently asked questions about what the #LArain really means:
1. Does all this rain mean the drought is over?
The recent rain might temporarily relieve drought effects, but it is not a cure-all. Yes, reservoirs up north may be filling again, but SoCal reservoirs are still dry. It will take years for our depleted groundwater aquifers to catch up. A good analogy is relating the drought to your credit card: a series of big storms is like paying off the minimum balance. You have temporary relief, but you still have a lot of water debt to pay off from the water you took out before. We require much more water to reach healthy and secure levels.
Locally, our regional infrastructure is not set up to store rainwater or capture runoff, and reuse it. The system is currently designed to move rain water to the ocean as fast as possible. Only 12% of Southern California drinking water comes from locally captured rainwater seeping into our groundwater.
2. What is “stormwater capture” and why is Heal the Bay so excited about it?
The L.A. region now imports more than 80% of our water from Northern California and the Colorado River watershed, using enormous amounts of energy and capital to do so. In an era of permanent drought, we simply must do a better job of using the water we already have by investing in innovative infrastructure projects that capture and reuse stormwater. We need to capture and infiltrate water on-site, replenishing aquifers instead of funneling runoff uselessly to our seas via the stormdrain system.
3. What needs to be done to improve stormwater capture in Los Angeles?
Runoff — if held, filtered and cleansed naturally in groundwater basins — can provide a safe source of water for human use. That means building so-called multi-benefit projects like green streets, water-smart parks and low-impact commercial development. Philadelphia and Portland have made enormous strides in treating stormwater as a resource rather than a nuisance, and so can we. The city of Los Angeles, for example, has created an ambitious master plan for stormwater capture. But all this innovative replumbing requires capital. Heal the Bay has joined a broad array of environmental and business groups asking regional lawmakers to craft a public-funding measure, perhaps in the form of a reasonable parcel tax. It’s a needed investment, one that will replace outmoded ways of thinking and pay dividends for years to come.
4. The rain increases supply, but what about reducing demand?
Most conversations about water in our state revolve around supply. We often fail to talk about demand, and how we can reduce the strain put on our unreliable delivery system by simply being smarter about the water we already have. Los Angeles residents have done a remarkable job of reducing their average daily per-gallon usage over the past decade, but we can still do better. The average DWP residential customer used about 68 gallons per day in November, compared to about 42 GPD in Santa Cruz. A good place to start is rethinking our love affair with gardens and lawns in arid Southern California. Nearly 50% of water used residentially in greater L.A. goes to watering lawns and other landscaping.
Rimmed by foothills and mountains, Los Angeles County is like a giant concrete bowl tilted toward the sea. When it rains, water rushes along paved streets, picking up trash, fertilizer, metals, pet waste and automotive fluids before heading to the ocean via the region’s extensive stormdrain system.
With memories of historical deluges on their mind, engineers designed L.A. County’s 2,800-mile stormdrain system in the ‘30s and ‘40s to prioritize flood prevention. Moving stormwater out to sea quickly was their number one goal. But it also has the unintended function of moving trash and bacteria-laden runoff directly into the Santa Monica and San Pedro Bays, completely unchecked and untreated. An average one-inch storm will create about 10 billion gallons of runoff in L.A. County stormdrains. That’s 120 Rose Bowls’ worth of dirty water!
8. What does all this runoff have to do with the ocean and marine animals that call it home?
Hundreds of thousands of animals each year die from ingesting trash or getting entangled in human-made debris. Seawater laden with chemicals and metals makes it harder for local marine life to thrive and reproduce.
Beachgoers who come in contact with polluted water after storms face a much higher risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and skin rashes. A UCLA epidemiology study found that people are twice as likely to get sick from swimming in front of a flowing stormdrain than from swimming in open water.
10. How can ocean lovers stay safe during the storms?
Wait at least 72 hours before entering the water after a storm
Stay away from storm drains, piers and enclosed beaches with poor circulation
You can support Heal the Bay’s efforts to make L.A. smarter about water. Here’s how:
Come to a volunteer cleanup to learn more about stormwater pollution and what can be done to prevent it. Invite family and friends to help spread the word
Share information on your social networks and support our green infrastructure campaigns
Become a member. Your donation will underwrite volunteer cleanups, citizen data-collection efforts and advocacy efforts by our science and policy team to develop more sustainable water policies throughout Southern California.
Dec. 15, 2016 — Calling all inventors, tinkerers, makers, “mad” scientists, DIY’ers, or just anyone with a good sense of humor. It’s time to get ready for Los Angeles’ 4th annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at the Santa Monica Pier!
A Rube Goldberg Machine is a crazy contraption that accomplishes a simple task in the most complicated – and funniest – way possible! Based on the “invention” cartoons of the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning American cartoonist, Rube Goldberg, actual machines are at the heart of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. They use everyday items (mostly junk), to tell a story and, most important of all – they make you LAUGH.
The competition is open to middle school, high school, and college level teams. This year, teams will be faced with the challenge of “applying a Band-Aid” at the end of their multistep chain reaction. This is a great way to showcase your talent to elite industry judges. Last year’s judges were from SpaceX, Google, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.
The competition is part of the larger S.T.E.A.M. Machines Festival on the Santa Monica Pier scheduled for Sunday March 5th. It will be a full day of gadgets, innovation, creativity, and fun. For additional information, including registration details and financial aid opportunities, please contact Tara Crow or call 310-564-6126.
July 14, 2016 — This past spring Heal the Bay hosted our first-ever BioBlitzes at two of Los Angeles’ remaining wetlands: Malibu Lagoon and Ballona Wetlands. BioBlitzes bring people together to rapidly (over a period of a few hours) catalogue and identify plant and animal life in biodiverse areas. Wetlands are unique and critical ecosystems that are in trouble – in the last couple hundred years, Southern California has lost over 90% of its native wetlands.
Wetlands provide many services, which often go by unappreciated. They help regulate climate, store surface water, control pollution and flooding, replenish natural aquifers, protect shorelines, maintain natural communities of plants and animals, and provide opportunities for education and recreation. (For more information about Southern California’s wetlands, check out http://scwrp.org/general-wetlands-information/). Unfortunately, years of development and degradation have destroyed the flow of water, altering the habitat for wetland animals and plants. Heal the Bay supported the restoration of Malibu Lagoon from 2012 to 2013 and now we’re lobbying for the restoration of Ballona Wetlands as well to bring it back to a healthy, functional state. Our BioBlitz events helped capture and illuminate the amazing biodiversity of these areas. After crunching the numbers from these events, it seems timely to share our findings leading up to this Saturday’s beach cleanup and sneak peek at the Ballona reserve.
Most of our observations were of the amazing plants that rely on the wetlands to thrive. Plants form this environment’s base, providing a natural filter for water as it passes through. They also provide habitat, food, and shelter for the populations of birds, insects, and reptiles that live in wetlands. We found both sites were host to dozens of bird species including great blue herons, snowy egrets, and brown pelicans. Every year, almost one billion birds migrate along the coast of California in an area known as the Pacific coast flyway. Wetlands in Southern California are a crucial pit stop for migratory birds and the diversity of species we observed is promising. In just three hours at Ballona, we saw 17 different species of birds – almost a third of the bird species found in an extensive wetlands survey conducted by The Bay Foundation that spanned months. This shows the power of BioBlitzes to capture important data for conservation.
From 2012 to 2013, Heal the Bay advocated for an ecological restoration of Malibu Lagoon which involved removing invasive species, replanting native ones, and adjusting the hydrology of the wetland. Inventories done by The Bay Foundation showed only six species of native plants prior to restoration, while almost 41 were noted after the restoration! Since plants form the base of an intricate web of life in the wetlands, bringing back natives can also bring back other species – including those that are threatened. At both sites our BioBlitzers found four threatened species, but that number will certainly increase with more sampling.
We found more than 20 introduced species at each site, which means they arrived through human influence. These invaders include everything from the delicate cabbage white butterfly to the crystalline ice plant. Invasive species are one of the biggest threats to healthy wetlands because they can outcompete native species and overtake the habitat. Since the restoration at Malibu Lagoon, the pervasiveness of non-natives has decreased. While Ballona is still struggling with invasive species, we hope planned restoration efforts will allow this wetland to reach its full potential.
Thanks to all of our “blitzers” for helping us Blitz the Bay in Ballona Wetlands and Malibu Lagoon. Keep exploring, enjoying, and fighting for our wetlands!
Citizen Science Coordinator Catherine Hoffman led these successful blitzing efforts.
July 7, 2016 — Over the last ten months, citizen scientists of all ages helped our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium survey the humble Pacific Mole Crab (commonly known as the sand crab). More than 60 volunteers collected an immense amount of data about these sand crabs on the beach just outside the Aquarium’s doors – what did they learn?
Last year the Aquarium partnered with the Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students (LiMPETS). This statewide program activates people along the entire California coast to do real science through hands-on data collection – at the Santa Monica Pier we focused entirely on sand crabs, an indicator species useful for measuring the health of the entire ecosystem. We observed how rainfall, water temperature and tides affected the size, sex and abundance of sand crabs.
After consistently collecting data for almost a year we are beginning to see some trends. What is most exciting is the sheer number of sand crabs we’ve been seeing lately. In the winter, if we found two sand crabs we knew it was a good day. Now we’re consistently finding 15-25! What’s behind this drastic change?
The answer has to do with the sand crab’s life cycle. Adult sand crabs have a mating season between November and February. Their eggs develop for 30 days, before hatching into planktonic larvae. These larvae float around in the ocean for a little over four months and go through six different life stages (which ensures that they become widely dispersed and colonize new areas)! They eventually settle onto shore as juveniles, or “recruits,” and about a month later become fully grown adults. This explains why we are currently finding so many sand crabs, especially many of the recruits that were laid in the early months of mating season, drifted as plankton for months, and have now made the Santa Monica beach their home. As they continue to feed and grow, they will soon start the process all over again.
So if you joined on a sand crab survey trek in the winter, be sure to come back and help us find, count, and measure all of the sand crabs we have been finding on the Santa Monica beach!
Taylor Spesak is the Aquarium’s public programs educator. Join him every Wednesday at 3pm for sand crab monitoring. The program is included with Aquarium admission.
Nov. 19, 2015 — This blog was written by Taylor Spesak, Public Programs Intern, and Catherine Hoffman, Programs Coordinator, at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.
Beneath your toes at the beach are thousands of sand crabs just trying to make it through the day. Most beachgoers walk right over them without a care, but Santa Monica Pier Aquarium citizen scientists are eager to find them!
Heal the Bay recently partnered with the statewide LiMPETS program to bring sand crab monitoring to the Santa Monica shoreline just outside the Aquarium’s doors. This program activates people along the entire California coast to do real science through hands-on data collection.
But…why do we care about sand crabs? For starters, they can tell scientists a lot about the sandy beach ecosystem. For example, if there is a low number of crabs during a collection, water quality may be poor or a high number of predators may be snacking on the sand crabs. The list could go on and on. By simply counting these overlooked creatures, scientists can make conclusions about the entire ecosystem’s overall health.
Citizen scientists from the Aquarium are focusing on sand crabs specifically in the area around the Santa Monica Pier. We’re examining several factors that may be affecting the number of crabs present, like how long it’s been since a heavy rain and whether the sample spot is under the Pier. We’ve already noticed that there seem to be more crabs during dry spells and more crabs directly under the Pier.
The findings are intriguing, and we look forward to analyzing more data. That’s where you come in!
Experienced or not, anyone can be a citizen scientist, and we’d love to do science with you. As long as the tides are low, the surf isn’t too aggressive, and there is no rain we will be out collecting data every Wednesday at 3:00pm. No training required! Meet us at the Aquarium and we’ll then head down to the beach to collect our sand crabs. This program can also be used as a service or linked learning opportunity for middle and high school students. An AP Environmental Studies class from Los Angeles Academy of Arts and Enterprise has already helped us collect great data.
So come get crabby with us on Wednesday, November 25, at 3pm and kick off your citizen science career under the Pier!
For more information, please email Catherine Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a predicted El Niño “too big to fail” heading for Southern California, we proclaimed Oct. 11-17 El Niño Week to help us all understand what causes this meteorological phenomenon, offer tips to prepare, and explore the ways that expected heavy rains can be turned to our advantage. We have a number of folks and establishments to thank for their help and support in making El Niño Week a success.
We’re also grateful to Bill Patzert, a scientist at the California Institute of Technology’s NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, for giving an informative and entertaining talk to a packed room at the Aquarium. Patzert managed to have the crowd in stitches as he explained the science behind an El Niño.
We couldn’t do our work without the committed volunteers that are the backbone of Heal the Bay. This is especially true in the month of September, when we coordinate Coastal Cleanup Day for LA County.
On September 19th, 9,475 volunteers removed 21,310 pounds of trash from over 60 miles of territory (including three underwater sites). A huge thank you to everyone who cleaned our beaches, parks and waterways on a sweltering Saturday, and to the LA County Board of Supervisors and the Coastal Cleanup Day site captains.
The Wednesday before Coastal Cleanup Day, Heal the Bay gives more than 700 students from underserved schools a day at the beach, where they learn about ocean conservation through a series of games by the shore and visit the marine life at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium It’s all-hands on deck for this action packed day, and by the time the kids are back on their buses, staff and volunteers have worked up an impressive appetite. Thanks to Grey Block Pizza, we weren’t hungry for long. The donation of a variety of delicious pies was greatly appreciated.
And it was so neighborly – and generous – of Rusty’s Surf Ranch on the Pier to name our Aquarium as their beneficiary during Santa Monica’s Buy Local/Get Local week. Rusty’s donated a portion of the week’s sales to the Aquarium.
June 24, 2015 — We love celebrating Nick Gabaldón Day each May, recognizing the first documented surfer of African-American and Mexican descent, and showcasing the heritage of the historical African-American beach site in Santa Monica, formerly referred to as the “Inkwell.” Gabaldón’s legacy and his passion for the ocean has inspired many surfers of color and continues to inspire us. We are so thankful for the support of the following groups and individuals who make this day possible:
Each time we go to a supermarket or restaurant we are faced with choices about what kind of seafood to buy. Health concerns and a growing desire to eat locally and sustainably have made these decisions harder than ever. But now…you have Nick Fash on your side! Starting this month, Nick, our Aquarium’s education specialist and Key to the Sea manager, will help you make informed choices at the seafood counter and your favorite local restaurant with his monthly seafood blog. As an added bonus, you’ll score one of his delectable recipes at the end of each blog.
Salmon? What exactly does this mean when you read it on a menu? The truth is that it could be farmed, or wild, or any one of six different fishes from two different groups from opposite ends of the earth. Not so simple anymore, is it?
There are two basic types of salmon: Atlantic and Pacific. The Atlantic salmon is in the genus Salmo and originally came from the Atlantic Ocean (I say originally as they are now farmed all over the world) and Pacific salmon is in the genus Oncorhynchus, which come from the Pacific Ocean.
Salmon are born in fresh water, travel to the ocean in their adult life and return to fresh water to lay eggs. They are a keystone species, meaning they play an important role in the nutrient-starved ecosystems where they spawn. When the Pacific salmon die, the nutrients in their body that they obtained from their lives out in the ocean are released into the Arctic, beginning the explosion of life that occurs during the spring and summer months. Without these nutrients the Arctic ecosystem would be unable to function properly.
Salmon are extremely sensitive to environmental changes in the ocean as well as on land. Their populations are suffering from logging, mining, pollution and changing ocean conditions. And salmon farming is the most recent major threat. Not only are salmon farms destroying the ecosystem with all of the waste they produce, they are spreading diseases and parasites to the wild salmon as they migrate out to the ocean. So we are not only destroying one of nature’s finest food sources, replacing them with highly inferior farmed salmon, we are also risking the ruin of an entire ecosystem.
Southern California does not have open pen aquaculture (salmon farms located just offshore along the coast), but we do have other problems that impact salmon populations: Pollution, coastal development and habitat destruction adversely affect our own local fisheries. By helping to establish Marine Protected Areas throughout California, Heal the Bay is working to counteract the effects of environmental degradation on our fisheries by creating no-take zones for fish stocks to recover and thrive.
Knowing where your seafood comes from is important! Fortunately, several local seafood suppliers are committed to sourcing the sea’s bounty in a responsible and sustainable way. Check out the selections offered at Santa Monica Seafood, Wild Local Seafood, and Community Seafood for your next seafood purchase.
Wild Alaskan Salmon (serves 4)
3lb Wild Alaskan Salmon filet, with skin on
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon fresh orange juice
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon honey
Preheat broiler. Line rack of broiler with foil and lightly brush with oil.
Pat filet dry and check for bones by running finger along the filet. If you find any bones you can pull them out with a pair of clean pliers.
Season with salt and pepper.
Broil 4-5 inches from heat for 7 minutes, cover with foil and continue to cook in the broiler for another 7-10 minutes.
While the salmon is broiling, whisk together all sauce ingredients.