The Beach


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Running Till Dusk at Zuma Beach

Two of my favorite things to do in life is exercise and connect with nature. Being able to combine those two activities helps me wind down during any stressful day. One of my favorite beaches to run on in California is the Zuma beach strand, the closer to sunset the better. Going to the beach during the day naturally has a calming effect, but when you add a beautiful sunset and an empty beach you can almost feel the stress radiating out of your body and you start filling with an overwhelming tranquil feeling. One reason I love to run on Zuma beach late in the afternoon and into the night is because every time I run on the beach I encounter some type of wildlife, call it a coincidence or just random luck but I like to believe that I encounter the same sealion each time I run on this beach. Every time I have gone running on this I have also encountered a pod of dolphins most of the times off in the distance but every now and then I will see them just past the waves.

I believe everyone deserves to live a long,  happy and healthy life. One major road block on our path to a long happy, healthy life  is stress. With the society we live in today stress is knocking on our door every hour on the hour.  Two proven methods to help deal with stress is time in nature and exercising. The great thing about the beach and the ocean is the offer you two methods to reduce your daily stress for the price of one.  Spending time at a beach does nothing but promote a healthy life but also gives the average person a chance to witness animals living in their natural environment. On any given day at zuma beach you have the opportunity to see dolphins, sea lions, and various different species of birds.

Zuma may be a popular beach during the day time but once the sun starts setting the crowd starts vanishing. This is the very reason why I prefer to go to the beach, specifically why I  enjoy running on zuma beach during the evening. During this time I get to do everything recommended for a healthy mind and healthy body. I get to run on the sand while the water flows over my feet, I get to reflect on whatever troubling me in my life for the moment, all the while staring off at a priceless sunset, and I get to connect with marine life that share this great planet with us. While I am living here in southern California Zuma beach will always be natures treadmill for me and a 24/7 free therapy session.

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.

Victoria/ Laguna Beach


Hello everyone, for my first beach I decided that I would go to Victoria/ Laguna Beach, a beach that happens to be my current favorite beach in Southern California. It is a beautiful beach with clear blue waters and this beach actually has a marine protected area. The reason that it is a marine protected area is that it has tide pool habitats scattered everywhere on the beach. These tide pools are created by the thousands of rocks scattered along the beach, these tide pools create habitats for sea anemones, algae, clams, and crabs. These species listed are just the few that I was able to see the day that I went. In some of these tide pools, it is noticeable that the sediment is biogenic because of all the colorful shells.

There is this huge circular stone wall that was built on the beach and it creates its own man-made tide pool found directly on the beach. It is said that when the tide is high this beach is known for its huge rough waves that make it difficult to reach most of this beach. It has an amazing man-made tower that was built in the 1920’s right between the ocean and a cliff. This tower was made as a staircase for the house that was built above the cliff, this tower made it possible to get easier access to the beach. This tower is what actually makes this beach known, everyone knows this beach because of this tower and the circular stone wall.

Visiting this beach was a different experience for me because I had the chance to see a marine protected area, something I have never seen. It was mind-blowing seeing nature existing on the rocks of this beach, the rocks that were visible were mostly covered in in this bright green algae. When I walked passed the tower I was shocked when I saw men swimming between the huge rocks that were being hit by rogue waves. I couldn’t believe that they weren’t scared of swimming between those rocks. The water was so fresh and clear, it was an amazing experience to swim in such clear waters. Watching the crazy waves crashing into the huge rocks located on the beach was breathtaking, I had never seen such rough waves. I couldn’t believe the crazy waves that I was seeing right in front of me, it was an experience to remember. This beach really had me feeling connected to nature and astonished by the fact that I was seeing such a beautiful view of the ocean. This beach was by far the most beautiful beach that I had ever visited.

Harbor Cove Beach

Coastal Cleanup Day 2018 at Harbor Cove Beach was a wonderful experience shared among the community. I saw several volunteers on my walk to The Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at Channel Islands National Park. When I arrived, I was greeted by an overwhelmingly positive energy. There were many volunteers, of all ages, visiting several booths in front of the museum. The royal blue Amgen tent was visible from down the road as well as the REI booth. The Coastal Clean Up Day booths had waivers to participate in the event, gloves, trash bags, water, snacks, t-shirts, stickers, and most importantly a neat stack of Volunteer Ocean Trash Data Forms.

One area of environmental concern is the alarming amount of microplastics in our water. I was delighted to see two of my CSUCI professors working together at the Microplastics Booth. I have been learning more about the plight of ocean pollution and how it affects food webs and beach ecosystems in each of their classes (The Beach and Senior Capstone in Biology). Additionally, we will be discussing marine debris in more detail in both classes in a few weeks. I shared with my professors that I appreciate that the curriculum in both courses reflect similar topics and I enjoy hearing their perspectives on ocean topics.

I have participated in quite a few beach cleanups and always look forward to strolling along coastline, walking on the soft warm sand, or searching for interesting trash in high-traffic areas. This Coastal Clean Up Day, I decided to focus on collecting what the Volunteer Ocean Trash Data calls “tiny trash” which is trash that is less than 2.5 centimeters. There is a handy scale on the form and the picture below displays one of the largest pieces of foam I found.

Because I focused on “tiny trash”, I ended up spending a majority of my time in a small area. Most of the trash I found was caught in dune vegetation. In The Beach (class), my professor shared the scientific names and pictures of native and invasive species of dune vegetation. She has offered to show me her dune vegetation identification guide so I can identify the plants in the pictures I have included in this blog post. The last two pictures in this post show the inconspicuous foam and plastic pieces caught in the dune vegetation. Can you spot the confetti star in the last photo? My classmates were in awe of the large amount of trash I found in such a small area. In future beach cleanups, I will dedicate time to picking up “tiny trash” because it really adds up!


Overall, Coastal Clean Up Day 2018 at Harbor Cove Beach was a wonderful event with amazing volunteers of all ages. The importance of educating the community about ocean pollution, especially microplastics, is vital in improving our ocean’s health. It was pretty awesome to see two of my professors dedicating their Saturday to educating the community; it was also great to see classmates from both of their classes as well. This experience has inspired me to focus on cleaning “tiny trash” in future beach cleanups and work on my dune vegetation identification skills.


One of my favorie places to visit in SoCal is Venice beach. There’s something about it thats so unique, electric and artsy. You can almost find anything and everything in this short little board walk along the sand. Everywhere you look is some kind of pop of color that just radiates good vibes, along with every kind of person imaginable. There are so many little shops on this beach. Along with a wide varite of homeless people selling things they have made with findings along the beach. My favorite was a homeless couple letting people cuddle their puppy for a dollar. You will always find people watching in amazement at Muscle Beach. Which is a bunch of heavy lifting gym equiptment right on the sand. Next up you have the famous Venice Beach Skate Park. You can find people of all skill level and ethnicity. From your typical “skater boy look” all the way to a true Venice native skating with no shoes or shirt. One of the most breath taking parts are all the graffiti half walls in the sand. True artwork is created along these walls. My friend and I had the pleasure of watching someone paint on one while we were there. From the rare breed of people who call this place home, and all the tourists that walk along this board walk, Venice is truly a beach like no other where anyone can find something new to learn, see, smell, taste. It truly is a place like no other.

Thornhill Broome Beach Camping

My Name is Kyle Cunliffe and camping is one of my favorite activities. I love the chance to “get away from it all” that camping provides. Camping is a way to really connect with the environment around you. Camping is also a chance to unplug from technology and put the demands of a busy school and work life behind me.

I chose to camp at the Thornhill Broome Campground that is located in the Point Mugu State Park. I thought it would be a chance to really feel what this section of coast line is all about. The campground has a concrete driving path, but all the campsites themselves are located on the sand.   Behind the campground is the highway that snakes around the rocky coastline. This highway does detract from the tranquil beach environment some.

One of the first things I noticed about this beach campground is the shape of the sand. I was eager to see how humans had impacted the the movement of sediment. I noticed that the driving path had been built close to the sand and that sand was blowing onto, and over the path. The sand was forming a small dune that clung to the fence dividing the campground the the highway behind it. This road structure would surely cause sand and sediment to be removed from the beach as it blow onto the roads. I was not able to move further down the beach but I would suspect that some erosion of the beach would be present due to the camp grown road.

After studying the movement of the sand I looked outward to see what animals call this campground beach home. Seagulls were found in large numbers as well as ants. I was able to go catch some sand crabs down at the waters edge. Some kelp washed up on the shore, but the real treat came in the morning when some sea otters came to play near the shore. The campground was nut full, but others took notice of the playful critters in the morning. I was sad to see how much trash was left on the beach from campers. I did my part to help pick up some of the debris left behind.

I enjoyed the chance to study this beach as well as enjoy the cool breezes, endless sky, sand between my toes.


Dockweiler State Beach

 Dockweiler State Beach

Los Angeles, CA

 By: Matt Mahoney

Upon examination of numerous options of beaches to explore nearby, there was one beach in particular that came into my head in terms of a place I could easily remember enjoying nearly every time I visited. That beach is Dockweiler State Beach. I felt this would be perfect as I did not feel it would be a beach that many of my classmates had been to, or even had heard of. Dockweiler State Beach is located in Los Angeles, CA, in the Playa Del Rey neighborhood to be exact, and is actually part of the California State Parks system. Even though it is run by the CA state parks system, it is actually managed by the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors. What also makes this beach unique is that planes continuously take off from LAX right over the beach, making for a truly different experience. What always brings me back here is that this is not your normal beach you think of in Southern California, where you bring your beach towels and just lay in the sand and catch some surf. This beach always brought back memories of high school parties on the beach, and bomb fires that go late until the early morning hours; most of which make it a cultural trend for recreational activities not just during the evening hours, but during the day as well.

 The lenses I chose to examine this beach through are the community-oriented and cultural lenses, as everyone on this particular beach is part of one big family, and one big party! When I visited this beach during the day, it was actually the first time I had ever visited during the daylight hours. I wanted to see if this was beach that was actually worth visiting in the daytime, or just a beach to go and party at. I could see immediately that hang gliding was something that was so prevalent at this beach, they actually had a hang-gliding center and hang gliding training. This was not something that was easily evident during the evening hours. Everyone on the beach seemed to be congregating together, and were all one big family in essence. Veteran hang gliders helping the newer breeds. I was curious what made this beach such a good beach for hang gliding training and was told by one of the people I met on the beach that Dockweiler is perfect because of how large and flat of a beach it actually is, that goes on for quite some distance, with almost four miles of shoreline! Hang-gliding is not just the only activity that draws beach goers to Dockweiler during the day, but the numerous bicycle trails going along the beach are a great attraction for beach goers as well. To top it all off, this beach is not just for partying at night and outdoor recreation during the day. The endangered snowy plover also can sometimes be seen nesting on the beach. With this in mind, maybe we should indeed limit some of the large amounts of beach for snowy plover repopulation like we have seen other beaches be successful in doing. Dockweiler is a very large beach and there is plenty of room for everyone and all types of wildlife to enjoy what nature offers up as a natural playground. Perhaps if the California State Parks system was actually in control of Dockweiler after all, they could do more in helping the protection of the snowy plover habitat.

Ventura Harbor: Coastal Clean-Up

I visited this beach recently on the 14th of this month for the Coastal Clean-Up event. This was the first time I had ever been to this beach. The lens that I will be focusing on will be pollution/trash build up. I was very excited to see how many people would actually come out to help clean up the beach, I was pleasantly surprised to see that many people waking up early on a Saturday to come clean the beach that either they felt was special to them or that they felt the beach needed to be cleaned because they understand how much joy a clean beach can bring to people. Once I had finally began to clean up the beach I was given my bucket and sent on my way.

I went to areas that I assumed would be the most adversely affected by human activity. I first started off in the more sandy areas of the beach in which more people were likely to set up umbrellas and lay down towels. As I began to see some trash items I really started to think about how badly this can affect the beach ecosystem as a whole. Many of these areas had a range of human trash such as bottle caps, plastic bags, plastic six-pack rings, cigarette butts, cans, all the way to broken glass bottles under the sand.

After I had cleaned up the trash from the areas that I assumed would be more populated with humans I went to some of the areas made up of large rocks stacked together. Perhaps these were acts of beach armoring in an attempt to break up the wave energy before it crashed on the coast. Nonetheless this area was where I found the largest items of human trash. Most of these items were hard to get out specifically because a plethora of the items were under the rocks, and had become parts of the environment. I was able to get many large pieces of plastic like poles and other items. The largest item that I did come across was an entire car tire. It was stuck under one of the rocks, and judging by the moss and water present around the tire I assumed that it had been there for a long time.

The impact of the items left behind by humans can not only cause confusion amongst the marine life and possible the infauna, but it also presents a new danger. With every plastic-six pack ring that is left behind by a human puts a member of the marine life in direct danger. Many animals get their heads or their limbs caught in these plastic rings which can lead to their death at the hands of a predator or it can cause them to die from possible asphyxiation.

I only came across one of the plastic six-pack rings, but it still shows that even a public beach so close to can present real dangers to the marine life. I thought of how it was great that I was able to come to the Ventura Harbor for absolutely no money, but at the same time it made me think about how the beach was free to park at that people cared less about the overall health of the beach because it was a place that is free to go to.  I wonder that if the beach had parking that you had to pay for would the levels of human trash/waste be less than what I saw or would it be even more trash than that?

Overall, my experience of this beach was very calming and relaxing for me. Seeing the trash made me think of how we could treat our beaches better, but the amount of people all trying to clean up the beach restored my faith. I think that many Californians have a sense of ownership over certain or all beaches in California and as a result of that I think that people will continue to try to keep our beaches looking beaches and continue to fight for more public access because at the end of the day beaches serve as a vital piece of the identity of California.


Isla de Magdalena

Isla de Magdalena is located in Baja California Sur on the pacific side. The island guards Magdalena bay, which is a 50 km long bay. This large bay is one of the many bays, which the gray whales use for their winter migration. Due to the vastness of the bay, there is very little human activity that exists on Isla de Magdalena. At one end of the island is a mangrove swamp. Near the entrance of the mangroves exists a small fishing village, where there is a large sandy beach. During the day, the village seems almost completely deserted with the exception of a large dog. Once past the breaking waves, the water on the beach gently laps the shore. Depending on the tide the current at the beach may be very strong or very weak. I used the tide to my advantage while paddle boarding through mangroves during one of these sleepy quiet days. As the tide was still coming in but coming close to back, paddle as far back as possible. I found hidden among the mangroves trees, huge white dunes. We parked our paddle boards, and spent several minutes running up to the top of dunes and sliding down them. The sand those dunes were made from was very white and fine. It reminded of the sand that would be seen in the Caribbean. After playing on the dunes, we paddled out of the estuary with the rushing tide. While paddling, you could see various halibut and stingrays flying out with the tide as well.

Paddling Out of the Mangroves

While staying on the isla de Magdalena we were camping in tents. Most of the island near where we camped was made of lava rock. There were a few coves, where the waves ate away at the rock and left a sandy beach behind. Each of the sandy beaches varied. Some had very fine sand while others had almost pebbles for sand. Because there was very little human presence, most of the beaches contained the beaches were teaming with animal life. Crabs scurried around the rocks, while coyotes left their track prints through the sand. There were pelicans that seem to enjoy on specific beach in particular. The beach had a large rocky point which projected out into the surf.

Sandy Beach

The entire goal of my trip to Isla de Magdalena was for surfing. Because the island is pretty exposed to all directions of the pacific, it is able to pick up many different swells. On top of that, the spot is controlled to only allow twelve tourists to camp at on island at a time. This leaves the three different surf spots very uncrowded. During the time I went the only people on the island were me, my dad and one other guy. Despite not being much surf, I spent a lot of time paddle boarding, snorkeling, and hiking. The trip was a well deserved two week break from society. It allowed be to read a book from front to back, which I had not done in a very long time. As well as return to basics and get out of my fast pace lifestyle.

Crissy Field

For my beach I went to Crissy Field out by San Francisco. I went there because not only is it dog friendly, I was also visiting my hometown in Northern California in the Bay Area. My scope of focus is going to be business. I chose business because to me that stuck out the most to me while I was visiting there. While it was also dog friendly, it was also very active, touristy, and a lot of many other activities to do other than just sit at the beach. While there was only one shop and one diner close to where I parked, there was still a lot of business going on in that one shop. When I went in the shop, I noticed there was over twenty people in this little shop running around trying to buy souvenirs, and while I went to the diner to get water for my dogs, I noticed there was over fifty people standing in line ordering food, waiting on their food, or just enjoying the atmosphere of the little diner. While I was walking around the beach I noticed that most of the people also walking around or picnicking, a lot of people where foreigners, while some were locals to the area, you can tell the difference in the clothing style. There were also photographers on a dock nearby since it had a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is the iconic bridge of San Francisco. It got me curious so I asked one of the photographers how much did he charge and he said it was $5 a picture and when I asked him roughly how much he made a day he told me on a good day he makes $750 just to take pictures, which means he makes $5,250 a week just taking pictures of foreigners and locals with the Golden Gate as his backdrop. He then goes on to tell me that he gets really good business when it is the summer season and not that much good business when it is the fall and winter season yet he still pulls roughly about $300 a day on his slow seasons. With that in mind, business is very good in Crissy Field between the one diner, the one shop, and the many photographers sharing the wealth between the locals and the foreigners alike.

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