The Beach


Author: rwilliams

A day on Santa Cruz Island

Positioned along Southern California’s coast, the historic Santa Cruz Island is one of the eight-island archipelagos. The islands, which reside within Santa Barbara County (four), Ventura County (two), and Los Angeles County (two), are home to many native, non-native, and endemic species. Located within Santa Barbara County, Santa Cruz Island  offers great views, miles of trails, clear turquoise-blue waters, and wildlife. Santa Cruz Island consists of 77 miles of coastline, which entails steep cliffs, sandy and rocky beaches, sea coves, and numerous sea caves including one of the world’s largest sea cave known as the Painted Cave.

On October 13th, my conservation biology class took a trip to Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz Island. Covering just over 96 square miles, we hiked approximately 3 miles to Pelican Bay, and observed the beautiful views. We spotted many endemic Island Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma insularis) and multiple endemic Island Foxes (Urocyon littoralis santacruzae). We also spotted island chaparral shrubs, which included the endemic Santa Cruz Island manzanita (Arctostaphylos insularis) and chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum var. fasciculatum), amongst many others.

The beautiful waters surrounding the rocky beach at Prisoners Harbor is quite beautiful. After we hiked to Pelican Bay, we rested and cooled off in the ocean. The beach was filled with rocks, ranging between the sizes as small as pebbles to even as big as rocks that were several feet wide. We sat, watched, and listened to the calm waves slowly approach the shore.

Whenever I visit the Channel Islands, I always appreciate to see a lack of trash. We often see so much trash stuck on the side of a road or making its way down a river on the mainland, that it is almost shocking when you don’t see any at all on the islands. It reiterates the importance of reducing our trash on the mainland, while also protecting as much environment as possible to encourage a healthier and safer habitat.

Without any cell phone reception, we were able to relax and focus on what was in front of us. Sometimes we need to avoid our phones and our social media accounts for a couple of days to focus on ourselves and get a sense of appreciation for nature. One day I plan to snorkel at either Santa Rosa Island and/or Santa Cruz Island, so that I can see what lives in the beautiful turquoise-blue water.


Views of the pier at Prisoners Harbor.

View of the beach from the pier at Prisoners Harbor.

The beautiful waters of Santa Cruz Island and some little fish!

Some of my Conservation Biology classmates taking a swim.

View of the coastline on the hillside of Santa Cruz Island.

Santa Cruz Island Manzanita Tree (Arctostaphylos insularis)

Santa Cruz Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis santacruzae)

Please Click the “Waves” link below to watch a video.



Removing Trash One Piece at a Time

Located approximately 30 miles north of Santa Monica, Ventura County is home to many beaches. Ventura County’s coastline is composed of 93% sandy beach, where you can find Ventura Harbor & Channel Islands Harbor. On Saturday September 15th, thousands of people came together to collect trash along 41 miles of Ventura County coastline on Ventura County Coastal Cleanup Day. Our class, along with hundreds of other people joined together at Harbor Cove Beach at Ventura Harbor to remove trash from the beach, including macroplastics and microplastics. Reducing the amount of trash that pollutes our rivers, beaches, and oceans is vital for the well being of wild life and the environment.

Harbor Cove Beach, which is located at the end of the road as you drive around Spinnaker Drive, is best known for its swimming. This smaller-sized beach is protected by two jetties and a breakwater, which reduce rip currents and decrease the wave height. On the southern side of the south jetty, the waves appeared to be more violent with higher surf, and had small amounts of kelp wrack. Harbor Cove beach, which is the area between the jetties and the breakwater, had a deficiency of kelp wrack compared to the southern side of the south jetty. The lack of kelp wrack suggests a lower amount of biodiversity of infauna, which makes that habitat more susceptible to becoming unhealthy. It appeared that the addition of the two jetties and the breakwater had an effect on the amount of kelp wrack the beach received, more than likely due to the blocking of waves. It would be interesting to investigate the impact of the jetties and the breakwater on the natural movement of sediment and sand along the longshore currents. 

When I walked on to the beach, I was surprised to see a shortage of trash. I had thought that I would be able to walk on the beach and easily pick up an obvious piece of trash, as normally beaches are polluted with waste. I had then realized that so many people had been picking up trash for so many hours prior, that a lot of it had been picked up already. However, I did notice a good amount of microplastics that had not been picked up yet since they are harder to spot. I was able to dispose many small pieces of Styrofoam and other little pieces of plastic such as broken bottle caps. A group of friends and I decided to move along the beach and check around the lifeguard stand and the southern jetty where no one else was searching for trash. We were surprised nevertheless relieved to not find any trash around there either, so we moved to the parking lot and found a decent amount of trash hidden behind and under trash cans. Once we were unable to see any more visible trash, we walked along the center divider of Spinnaker drive, where we found most of our trash. When we were finished, the three of us together collected around 2 pounds worth of trash. Included in that two pounds were dozens of cigarette butts, plastic wrappers, bottle caps, and even a sprinkler head. Ventura County Star released later that there was a total of 11,741 pounds of trash collected, including another 702.5 pounds of recyclables along our coastline (Ventura County Star).

From this experience, I can understand and advocate the effectiveness of cleaning up beaches and the removal of harmful pollutants from ecosystems. It is very important to keep our world clean by protecting our environment and wild life, while also reducing our carbon footprints for the sake of our future.

Click “The Beach” link below to watch a video of the waves on the southern side

of the south jetty at Harbor Cove Beach

The beach

Here is a wave on the south side of the southern jetty where it is not protected by the breakwater


Ventura County Star (2018). 11,741 pounds of trash picked up in Ventura County on Coastal Cleanup Day. Retrieved from

A Day at El Matador Beach

Located approximately 25 minutes from California State University Channel Islands campus along the western Malibu coastline, El Matador State Beach is home to beautiful rocks and famous sea arches formed by wave erosion. It is also an ungroomed beach, home to marine organisms such as isopods, clams, and infauna such as Emerita analoga (sand crabs), and many more. Hidden away down several staircases, the beach resides against a cliff, and is roughly 17 meters from the intertidal zone. This beach is known for its famous photo-shoots and fabulous sunsets behind the sea arch.

I was at El Matador beach September 13th with my Conservation Biology class, to observe and collect the biodiversity of species on El Matador beach. We used a clam gun (which you push into the sand) to accumulate about 20 cm worth of sand to capture invertebrates and kelp wrack. The sand was then sifted and rinsed out so that any remaining species were visible. We mostly captured Emerita analoga (sand crabs), Tylos puncatus (herbivorous isopods), Cirolana and Excirolana (Carnivorous isopods), Megalorchestia corniculata (beach hoppers), and even Coelopa frigida (kelp flies). I was surprised to see how many species we found, especially how many Emerita analoga (sand crabs) that we found. This data will be used to compare the species diversity and density to the groomed Zuma beach, in Malibu.

As we were on the beach, we observed fisherman sitting on the beach as they watched the waves while waiting to catch a fish. One of the gentleman in particular caught a small shark, and released him back into the water. I spotted no more than 5 seagulls on the beach, which was surprising to me since they normally surround the beach, although I did see quite a few on the rock (pictured below). We also spotted at least two photo-shoots, which was actually funny because they moved further away from us as we first entered the beach, and were still there when we left. I also noticed at the end that people in my class had collected trash that they had found along the beach; I was surprised to have not seen one piece.

It was my first time at El Matador beach, and the 3 hours we were there I was able to see the true beauty that this beach provides, and that it was healthy with species richness. Many beaches are groomed for human purposes, which reduce the abundance of species that live on the beach. Species diversity is very important for beach ecology. Beaches are already fighting sea level rise and coastal erosion; therefore we must protect our beaches like El Matador from human impact such as grooming.

A woman having her photos taken in front of and behind the rock, and a couple of people having their photos taken to the right of the rock, at El Matador beach in Malibu.

A woman having her photos taken in front of and behind the rock, at El Matador beach in Malibu.


© 2018 The Beach

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑