The Beach

CSUCI ESRM 335

Author: Marovitz

Surfer’s Point

The third beach I visited this semester was Surfer’s Point at ‘C’ Street, in Ventura. This is a beach I frequent due to the monthly Surfrider Foundation volunteer cleanup events and the annual Coastal Cleanup Day. This beach is the location we have discussed in class that is undergoing managed retreat. There is evidence that mitigation strategies on this beach are necessary, due to narrowing shorelines. While we were there, areas of the shoreline were completely within the swash zone, and we had to retreat back from the coast to pick up trash in a dry space.

These monthly events are organized by the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses its efforts on beaches, waves, and coasts. It utilizes programs like fighting against single use plastics, blue water task force, ocean friendly gardens and restaurants, and SmartFin, which is a technology installed on fins of surfboards to analyze water quality in areas surfers visit. They use donations to fund projects to further their voice in the environmental policy area, and send out members, volunteers, and employees to help campaign to push forward. Issues like beach access, clean water, and marine pollution are Surfrider Foundation’s focus points, and organizing chapters across the United States helps the chapters stay aligned and successful. They create many hands-on and accessible opportunities for the public to participate and be engaged in environmental issues and learn how to affect policy by actions they can take individually or as a community. Surfrider Foundation was my introduction to contributing in environmentalism and had a heavy influence on my personal decision to study environmental science and pursue it professionally.

Non-profit organizations are spearheading the public into becoming more excited about environmentalism and their beaches. Events like beach cleanups, blue water task forces, and invasive species removal puts more events and experiences into the world to learn from. These events individually are impactful; the October 2018 clean up event I participated in derived 234 pounds of trash eradicated from our coast, and 3,000 cigarette butts. This information is carefully calculated by volunteers and event coordinators and shared out. This creates a sense of pride in the work done on the beaches and continues to inspire large turnouts month after month. I encourage everyone to reach out to a local non-profit that has similar values to themselves and get involved.

Leo Carrillo State Beach

Leo Carrillo State Beach upholds the theme that Malibu is a destination spot for endless summer. Despite heavy rains the day prior, Leo Carrillo was overflowing with surfers, beachgoers, campers, hikers, and naturalists. Leo Carrillo is a destination spot for individuals that crave summertime. During my visit, there were close to twenty surfers engaged in their riding, despite the narrow shoreline. At the shore, some surfers were discussing best practices and the necessity of a board leash with some new surfers about to enter the water. The shoreline was split between sand to the south and moderately sized rocks to the north illustrating the need for the surfers to be skillful in determining how they would ride in the shore breaks. The surfers were not alone in their beach enjoyment; the narrow beach was covered in beachgoers appreciating the lingering summer air. The shore provides an intriguing area to watch wave refraction due to the bend in coastline that happens toward the southern edge of the beach. A birthday party enveloped almost the entire northern end of the beach, causing the shore to be further limited for those wanting to lay out and relax.

There does not seem to be an off-season for Leo Carrillo State Beach, either. The tides during this winter season are notably low, which is peak tidepool season. This creates more allure to drive people toward the beach during a season that would not be considered traditional summer. The tidepools draw in a naturalist’s curiosity for the species that exist in these tidepools. I was educated on sea star wasting disease which began plaguing the sea star population at Leo Carrillo in 2013. Sea star wasting deteriorates muscle tissue in sea stars, which causes fatalities to these populations. Employees, scientists, and naturalists are holding onto hope that the sea star population begins to recover this year, five years after the event started. Low-tides during December should see large crowds as well, hoping to spot tidepool population successes.

 

The geography of Leo Carrillo State Beach is in an excellent spot for beach-hopping. Several other beaches outline the iconic Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, like El Pescador State Beach, Nicholas Canyon Beach, and El Matador State Beach. Neptune’s Net is popular hangout for bikers and beachgoers riding along the coast and is located just a few minutes away from Leo Carrillo. Leo Carrillo State Beach is a great central hub for those intrigued by the culture of Malibu and its laid-back imaginary. The campsite allows for an easy point of access to the Malibu coast to both locals and tourists to take part in recalling favorite scenes from classic Hollywood movies. Movies like Grease, Gidget, and Karate Kid feature Leo Carrillo State Park as a location. Leo Carrillo State Beach provides the perfect epicenter for any individual that wants to experience quintessential Malibu culture.

 

This is a time-lapse video shot of surfers enjoying the surf.

The sign welcoming beachgoers at Arnold Road.

Ormond Beach is a beach fifteen minutes away from the CSUCI campus. It holds ecological importance, and the species that inhabit the beach are threatened by many anthropogenic influences. The beach is a two-mile stretch, contained by Port Hueneme Beach and the Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu. The beach is home to important shorebird species, most notably the Western Snowy Plover and California Least Tern. The Western Snowy Plover has been classified as federally threatened, and the California Least Tern is listed as endangered. These species rely on the dune landscape for nesting because they lay their eggs into nests made directly in the sand. Dunes help these species feel more comfortable laying eggs due to the layer of camouflage they provide.

Dunes in the nesting habitat.

The eggs of each species have a sandy pigment speckled across the egg for effective camouflage. To create a nest, each species creates a scrape in the sand, which is a small indent, hard to detect if your eye is not trained to detect them. Western Snowy Plovers enjoy decorating their nests ornately, using fragmented shells to help further hide their nest from predators. Once the male builds a suitable scrape, the egg-laying begins. The nesting season at Ormond Beach occurs late spring through mid-summer. The Western Snowy Plover nests first in the season, followed by the California Least Tern.

A decorated Western Snowy Plover nest.

The Western Snowy Plover chicks are precocial, meaning immediately mobile after hatching. It is the chick’s duty to find its own food, but one of its parents will help show the chick where to forage. The hatchlings are unable to fly right away, so the parents must utilize techniques to help distract potential predators, all while alerting the chick to hide. The Western Snowy Plover parent will act like it has a broken wing to direct the predator towards it, away from the chick. The California Least Tern is more aggressive in its approach; the birds will dive-bomb and defecate on any humans or animals that get close to their eggs or chicks.

Two California Least Tern chicks.

A recovery plan has helped the existence of these two species. This recovery program is an ongoing effort to minimize the anthropogenic impacts on Ormond Beach and its inhabitants. Predator management is a priority; some of the eggs and chicks do not survive because of predators at Ormond Beach like ground squirrels, ravens, peregrine falcons, foxes, and coyotes. Predator exclosures help keep predators away from the Western Snowy Plover nests, while allowing the parents to exit to get food. Habitat protection is crucial as well. By protecting the nesting habitat, unwelcome human impact is lessened. The camouflage nature of the eggs can cause an oversight by visitors in the habitat. Loss of sensitive wildlife due to bike riding and trespassing is heartbreaking. Trespassing through the fencing is a federal crime, but there are many reported instances of intruders. Setting up trail cameras and having volunteer naturalists on location help manage threat of trespassing.

 

I was able to work alongside the Coastal Conservancy, Professor Hartley, and the Ventura Audubon this summer towards public outreach and conservation of both bird species. Monitoring the beach and working toward the recovery of both species was a powerful opportunity for me that I am excited to continue this year.

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