MEP Activities

MEP Activities

NEW: Mole crab program

Mole crabs are important herbivores in beach ecosystems and are a food source for birds, fish, and even sea otters. 

Sandy Beach Monitoring created by LiMPETS is an in-depth educational program on mole crabs that includes pre-program learning material for students and teacher training followed by a survey in Sandy Cove where students determine mole crab abundance, size, and sex during the Marine Ecology Program. The data collected by students is then uploaded into the LiMPETS database to keep track of mole crab populations.

This program is designed for students in grades 6–12 and college students. Contact us if you are interested in this program for younger age groups.

Enquire now for Fall 2024 and Spring 2025 by emailing mep@fortross.org 

Photo source: Micheal Douglas, iNaturalist

Sea lion hike 

Students learn how to distinguish the different species of sea lions along our coast and practice identifying them. After an introduction to citizen science and our monitoring methods, students hike to the sea lion island viewpoint to see our resident California and Steller sea lions using spotting scopes and binoculars.

Sea lions are endlessly entertaining. We see them swim, play, jump off cliffs, and seemingly have arguments with each other. Sometimes we even see mothers nursing their young pups!


Rocky Intertidal Zone  

Tidepooling is a treasure hunt to find cryptic, conspicuous and stunningly beautiful intertidal organisms. There is a hug diversity of marine invertebrates and algae on the rich california coast and the best way to learn about it is to explore and immerse yourself in the environment. Find sea stars, admire anemones, search for abalone, and see how animals live in different areas of the intertidal ecosystem depending on their needs.

In our programs, students have found crabs just a few millimeters in size, sea cucumbers, and even, sadly, sea stars with wasting disease that we reported on iNaturalist. 


Harbor seal survey  

How many harbor seals call Fort Ross home? This activity gives students the opportunity to be a field biologist - counting is science! We learn about harbor seal biology and ecology and then, with binoculars, we count the seals in Fort Ross Cove. Students learn about respecting shy seals and why marine mammal monitoring is so important for conservation. Sometimes we are lucky enough to see pups!


Beach time 

During lunch, students have the chance to explore the beach. Our MEPs almost always have the whole beach to themselves. Students find shells, play in the sand, and build drift wood structures. This is a great experience for students who don't have the opportunity to visit the beach very often. 

Kelp forests 

Kelp forests used to line the West Coast of North America - where did they go? Learn about the importance of kelp for both people and marine life, the factors that lead to their catastrophic loss, and restoration efforts currently underway to try to help bring them back. 

Cultural History, Biodiversity, & Conservation

We explore the rich, cultural history of Fort Ross. Visiting historic and re-created structures, we learn about the diverse peoples who lived and worked here, including the Kashia Pomo, the Russians who established “Fort Ross,” and the skilled Alaska Native hunters. By examining the cultural history of Fort Ross we look at how human practices impact the environment and natural biodiversity. Through observations made during our activities in the field, we ask questions and discuss factors contributing to what we are witnessing, covering topics such as threatened and recovering populations and how interdependencies across species affect the wider marine food web.


Photos: Dr. Dione Deaker, Coastal Naturalist