Beach Watchers study intertidal life at low tide


Volunteers place quadrats, a shape used to measure a sample of ecological life, along the transect lines.
On Wednesday morning, as gray clouds gathered, bringing with them a storm of thunder and lightning, a team of five volunteers and a beach watcher coordinator from Snohomish County were seen in Edmonds, Olympic Beach during a low tide of minus 3 feet.

Their task for the day was to complete the annual survey of beach slope and intertidal life, which includes algae and invertebrates on the Olympic Beach. They did this for several years. “It requires very low tide,” said Jonathan Robinson, Snohomish Beach Watchers program coordinator. “We also survey Mukilteo, Picnic Point, Howarth Park, Edgewater and Kayak Point beaches each year. Each survey takes us three to four hours.

Program Coordinator Jonathan Robinson carrying his data pad.

Instruments used for elevation readings are a rod resembling an oversized measuring stick and a carrying tool used in conjunction with a rod. The transit tool is used in surveying and is similar to a telescope.

Volunteer Dave Compton uses a transit tool to measure elevation, which will help determine the slope of the beach.

To be consistent, measurements are taken from the same starting point each year, which is a bench along the path just up the beach. A transect line was placed at 0 ft tide level and algal and invertebrate samples were collected along this line.

Left to right: Volunteers Dave Compton, Rand Peterson and Samuel Satushek discuss rod placement for taking the next measurement. A quadrat can be seen behind Peterson at the 0 foot tide level.

They were able to finish before the worst of the weather hit; although they were “a little wet,” Robinson said.

Once the data is collected, it is shared with the Puget Sound Partnership. To learn more or to see data from previous years, visit

— Story and photos by Julia Wiese

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