How can we better protect the biodiversity of the rocky intertidal zones?

Raised of $1,000 Goal
Funded on 3/07/14
Successfully Funded
  • $1,191
  • 119%
  • Funded
    on 3/07/14

About This Project

We are looking at what affects the biodiversity of rocky intertidal sites (tide pools) in San Diego, CA. How does visitor awareness of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) correlate to species biodiversity in the tide pools? If increased visitor awareness equals greater biodiversity, this will provide substantial justification for increased community outreach efforts, improved visitor education, better signage and more enforcement at MPA tide pools.

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What is the context of this research?

This study is the first of its kind to look at visitor awareness of the existence of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in San Diego, CA. We are investigating whether visitor knowledge (or lack of knowledge) relates to the species biodiversity of the rocky intertidal zones.

Why should we care about the biodiversity of the rocky intertidal zones? Biodiversity is a key indicator of the overall health of the marine ecosystem. The rocky intertidal zone is important as a nursery grounds for edible commercial species such as lobsters, crabs, mussels, and several species of fish. The rocky intertidal zone also provides an substantial economic benefit to San Diego, as tide pooling is a favorite attraction among tourists to the area, and serves as a recreational activity for local residents.

Researchers around the globe have found visitors illegally removing species from the intertidal zone for food or bait regardless of the marine protection status of the area (Murray et al. 1999, Smith et al 2008). My pilot research has also found that illegal taking of species is still a problem as visitors have been seen removing, mussels, snails, crabs, and sea stars. Even in the "no take" Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), visitors were observed removing abalone, snails, and crabs. So far, however, no one has looked at whether intertidal visitors in San Diego are even aware of MPAs. If visitors know about MPAs, does this improve the biodiversity of the intertidal zone? If they do not, does this lead to less biodiversity?

What is the significance of this project?

This study aims to investigate whether or not increased visitor knowledge about Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and MPAs within San Diego County correlates to decreased damage to intertidal zones and increased rocky intertidal species biodiversity. Do rocky intertidal areas of higher visitor awareness, such as within Cabrillo National Park MPA show increased biodiversity? Do rocky intertidal areas of poor visitor awareness show reduced biodiversity?

Sampling the biodiversity of each site multiple times will give a more accurate picture of the effects of visitor trampling and illegal taking of prized species. Correlations of visitor knowledge and visitor usage of the intertidal with species biodiversity are key to understanding how each site is being affected by visitor activity.

New management practices may be needed to address limited visitor knowledge and visitor impact once they are more accurately documented by this study. If increased visitor awareness equals greater biodiversity, this will provide substantial justification for increasing community outreach efforts, improving visitor education, providing better signage and encouraging additional regulation enforcement at all tide pools.

What are the goals of the project?

The end goal of this study is to document the level of visitor knowledge about Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the types of visitor activities observed and the subsequent effects on selected rocky intertidal sites in San Diego, CA.

At least 100 visitor knowledge surveys will be collected at each sampling site during multiple low tide events. Visitor usage data at each site will be collected at least 200 times during multiple low tide events. Biodiversity data will be collected at least 3 times per site.

Suggestions for specific improvements in resource management practices will be developed for both MPA and non-MPA locations to reduce visitor impacts on the rocky intertidal.

A peer reviewed paper will also be submitted to a scientific journal. Available local, state and other government officials will be given a presentation and access to data from the study's results. California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Cabrillo National Monument officials have already expressed interest in the results of this study.


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Since I have received my first funding goal, donations received will be used for supplies and to offset transportation costs to and from intertidal sampling locations (currently paid out of pocket).

If you have an unwanted iPad you wish to donate, please email me!

For this project, I would like to go totally paperless for conducting the in person interviews! An Apple iPad Air (32gig with Wifi) ($599+tax) will allow me to collect and record interview data on site and in real time. Photos and videos also can be taken on the iPad and uploaded seamlessly to my Google drive account for storage. The iPad will also be used for data collection while I am monitoring visitor usage and species biodiversity sampling. This will allow me to save paper and ink. The Lifeproof iPad Case ($129+tax) is waterproof, scratch proof, and drop proof to protect our investment.

Adobe Photoshop Elements and Adobe Premiere 12 ($98+tax for both) will be used to blur out visitor faces, for video production and imaging cleanup . Microsoft Suite including Microsoft Access will be purchased for data collection ($198+tax for two years on iPad and MacBook Pro).

Visitor usage sampling supplies for volunteers include pencils, waterproof paper, toner, ink, nylon tote bags and clipboards. Seconds Pro App ($4.99 x 8 volunteers) allows me to create individualized interval timers for my volunteer minions to conduct Visitor activity sampling.

Biodiversity sampling supplies include pvc piping, string, and glue to make quadrats.

Endorsed by

Monica's study will be instrumental in determining how well the public is informed regarding Marine Protected Area locations in San Diego County, and how effective these areas are in deterring human take of intertidal organisms. Her combination of public surveys, beachgoer activity-time budgets, and intertidal biodiversity surveys will go a long way in helping Monica address these questions. Such studies are needed for making better informed decisions about our precious marine resources, and for assessing the effectiveness of MPAs.
The Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe) is keenly interested in the results of this research effort. Our data have shown that high visitor use is possible with minimal effects on sizes of owl limpets, given a high degree of oversight (Sagarin, R.D., et al. 2007.Marine Biology 150:399-413). MARINe data has informed the placement of MPA’s, and we are interested that the establishment of these areas includes behavioral changes as people become more aware of their impacts on this community.

Meet the Team

Monica Tydlaska
Monica Tydlaska

Team Bio

Currently pursuing a Masters degree in Ecology from San Diego State University. My two undergraduate majors were earned at U.C. Santa Cruz in Biology and Environmental Studies. My passion for the ocean and its protection came from a family trip to Hawaii where I learned to love the ocean and wanted to do everything I could to protect that experience for my children and others. I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone by personally conducting over 600 visitor interviews in order to produce accurate data. My goal is to provide justification for improving resource management practices such as increasing community outreach efforts, improving visitor education, providing better signage and encouraging additional regulation enforcement at all tide pools.

Monica Tydlaska

Ever since I was a child I was fascinated by the ocean. On a family trip to Hawaii in middle school, I spent countless hours in the ocean being pushed to and fro by the waves over the coral reefs. It was at this moment in time that I decided I wanted to protect the ocean and do everything I could to make sure my children and others could see the beauty of the sea for themselves. Before recycling went mainstream, I set up with friends help recycling bins at the San Diego Crew Classic multiple years to remove the recyclables and give the cans and bottles to my local high school sports teams. I have always been interested in working in environmental monitoring throughout my education and professional job experiences. Even though I am but one person and one voice, I am to bring to light data and solutions to visitor related impacts along the San Diego coastline.

Additional Information

Fund $10 and more
Plankton Level
A thank you email.

Fund $25 and more
Kelp Level
A personalized thank you card.

Fund $50 and more
Sea Urchin Level
Same as above and a signed photograph of a study site of your choosing.

Fund $100 and more
Sea Star Level
Same as above AND a photo mug of a study site of your choosing.

Fund $250 and more
Abalone Level
Same as above AND spend an afternoon in the intertidal with Monica at a study site of your choosing.

Fund $500 and more
Lobster Level
Same as above AND a personal mention in my masters thesis acknowledgements.

Relevant publications:
Bally, R., & Griffiths, C. L. (1989). Effects of human trampling on an exposed rocky shore. International Journal of Environmental Studies, 34(1-2), 115–125. doi:10.1080/00207238908710519

Becker, B. J. (2006). Status and Trends of Ecological Health and Human Use of the Cabrillo National Monument Rocky Intertidal Zone (1990-2005). National Park Service, 1–205. Retrieved from

Engle, J. M. (2005). Rocky Intertidal Resource Dynamics in San Diego County: Cardiff, La Jolla, and Point Loma, 1–91.

Engle, J. M., & Davis, G. E. (2000). Ecological Condition and Public use of the Cabrillo National Monument Intertidal Zone 1990-1995 (No. 00-98) (pp. 1–180). U.S. Geological Survey.

Erickson, A., Klinger, T., & Fradkin, S. C. (2004). A Pilot Study of the Effects of Human Trampling on Rocky Intertidal Areas in Olympic National Park, USA.

Espinosa, F., Rivera-Ingraham, G. A., Fa, D., & García-Gómez, J. C. (2009). Effect of Human Pressure on Population Size Structures of the Endangered Ferruginean Limpet: Toward Future Management Measures. Journal of Coastal Research, 254, 857–863. doi:10.2112/08-1005.1

Ferreira, M. N., & Rosso, S. (2009). Effects of human trampling on a rocky shore fauna on the Sao Paulo coast, southeastern Brazil. Brazilian Journal of Biology = Revista Brasleira De Biologia, 69(4), 993–999.

Garcia, A., & Smith, J. R. (2013). Factors influencing human visitation of southern California rocky intertidal ecosystems. Ocean & Coastal Management, 73(C), 44–53. doi:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2012.12.006

Huff, T. M. (2011). Effects of human trampling on macro- and meiofauna communities associated with intertidal algal turfs and implications for management of protected areas on rocky shores (Southern California). Marine Ecology, 32(3), 335–345. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0485.2011.00467.x

Murray, S. N., Denis, T. G., Kido, J. S., & Smith, J. R. (1999). Human visitation and the frequency and potential effects of collecting on rocky intertidal populations in southern California marine reserves. Reports of California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations, 40, 100–106.

Smith, J. R., Fong, P., & Ambrose, R. F. (2006). Dramatic declines in mussel bed community diversity: response to climate change? Ecology, 87(5), 1153–1161.

Van De Werfhorst, L. C., & Pearse, J. S. (2007). Trampling in the rocky intertidal of central California: a follow-up study. Bulletin of Marine Science, 81(2), 245–254.

Project Backers

  • 26Backers
  • 119%Funded
  • $1,191Total Donations
  • $45.83Average Donation
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