How to Explore a Tidal Pool

Two Methods:Before You GoAt the Tidepool

Tide pools, small rock cups where seawater collects at low tide, are havens for a stunning diversity of marine life. These pools are also readily accessible to curious nature explorers of all ages. These tips should help you get the most fun and educational value out of your tide pool investigations, while keeping you and the wildlife safe.

Method 1
Before You Go

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    Learn beforehand by checking out an illustrated guide to local tidepool organisms. Guidebooks with rich photographs, such as those published by the Audubon Society, offer a way for adults and kids to visually identify and learn about organisms.
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    Get a beach etiquette guide, which can be found online or through a conservation organization, such as an aquarium or the Parks Department. This serves as a handy way to establish basic beach behavior rules, such as how to handle wildlife, and can be brought to the beach.
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    Establish rules ahead of time. Make sure you and your companions
    • keep an eye out for ocean hazards, such as sudden squalls or floating logs.
    • respect the space of other beach-goers.
    • bring your own trash container to avoid littering.
    • avoid damaging sensitive habitat areas.
    • handle wildlife appropriately, and avoid sensitive species
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    Dress for adventure. Make sure you're wearing old clothes that you don't mind getting wet, sandy, and muddy. You can either use waterproof sandals or tall boots, depending on the weather. Also be sure to bring a change of dry clothes, a hat, waterproof sunscreen, and a bucket.

Method 2
At the Tidepool

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    Keep your guide handy so you can identify organisms as you see them.
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    Watch where you walk, because rocks are often slippery with algae. Also make sure not to step on sea life!
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    Fill your bucket with sea water so you can use it to hold small animals such as snails or crabs for closer examination. Be sure to only keep the animal in the bucket for a few minutes before returning it to it's original home.
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    Touch animals gently with one wet finger.
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    Pick up animals gently, and leave alone any that offer resistance. Sea stars, oysters, mussels, and anemones are usually best left where they are. Crabs, cockles, snails, and sea cucumbers can be picked up.


  • Watch out for beach hazards, such as slippery rocks, unexpected waves, or rolling beach debris.
  • Tide pool species may be protected by law in your state, making it illegal to handle or disturb them. Check to make sure you're not doing anything illegal!
  • Be aware that some tidepool creatures, such as sea anemones and crabs, can sting or pinch sensitive skin. Make sure you know how to handle these animals properly.

Article Info

Categories: Wildlife