How strange to call this planet 'Earth' when quite clearly it is ocean. Arthur C. Clarke

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Once a Kayak Guide, Always a Kayak Guide

Did I tell you I figured out how to get paid to kayak again? This time in Santa Cruz!

Since I don't get summers off from school anymore and I couldn't move to San Juan Island and kayak there again, I got a job as a kayak guide with a small company on the Santa Cruz Wharf.

View from the wharf of the dock where we launch the kayaks.

Even compared to the San Juans, working in Santa Cruz is totally fantastic. It's a great job with great people and very diverse and exciting marine life. On every tour, I lead the group along the one-half-mile-long wharf, then around it and to the kelp forest just off lighthouse point. There, we see snails, sea otters, and the occasional kelp or decorator crab. Recently there were by-the-wind sailors (Velella velella) with their bright-blue tentacles floating on the surface, but their presence was quite ephemeral--just a few days later only their clear membranes remained tangled in the kelp canopy. There are always California sea lions and harbor seals, and it's not too rare to see pods of dolphins and harbor porpoises. We even came close to a grey whale once! 

Today, I helped lead a tour in Moss Landing, which is about 30 minutes south of Santa Cruz. This was exclusively a whale watching tour, because humpback whales are feeding in Moss Landing a lot this time of year. Since it was foggy, we heard the whales calling and breathing at the surface before seeing them swiftly emerge from the fog, swimming and diving past us.

After seeing the whales, we sailed and paddled into Elkhorn Slough. There are dozens of different birds there, including brown and white pelicans, three species of cormorants, grebes, gulls, and godwits. I am very lucky to live in and be able to fully enjoy such an enriching place. Come visit me sometime!

A kayak tour with my Ecology and Evolutionary Biology cohort. I was only
mildly reprimanded for bringing 12 friends on a private tour in the middle
of a busy Saturday afternoon. Woops.

Humpbacks in Moss Landing.

Sailing into Elkhorn Slough.

A double-crested cormorant about to take flight.

Brown pelicans in Elkhorn Slough. I liked to see them stretching their necks
because they are so long and fleshy! 

Mostly, the job is great because I get to share beautiful marine life with people who haven't seen it before or just don't know much about it. It's very easy to inspire a sense of appreciation in people for the ocean when they get to see, hear, feel, taste, and (usually unfortunately) smell it all around them. I love this job because it is so much bigger than me. 

I wanted to post about that since the only other thing I've been doing recently is studying for my comprehensive exam. I'm sure I'll have something to say about that after I take it in late October. 
Bye for now!

A sample of what I am reading for my comprehensive exam.

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