Marine Ecology Program

Marine Ecology Program


Student holding purple sea urchinMEP  Application

Fort Ross Conservancy offers one-day and overnight Marine Ecology Programs (MEPs) for groups of all ages. 

Situated on a pristine stretch of Sonoma County coastline, Fort Ross and Salt Point State parks boast abundant marine mammals, rocky intertidal zones, sandy beaches, and waters now protected by Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Fort Ross also has significant cultural history, with its historic buildings and exhibits telling the story of 19th century seafaring and fur trading. At Fort Ross we witness the human impact of resource exploitation and its subsequent intermittent recovery. This intersection of natural and cultural history helps to teach ocean stewardship and resource management through the long lens of history.

Our individually tailored educational modules are crafted to engage the minds of students and inspire the curiosity of adults. From exploring the effects of climate change and the impacts of human ecology on the local environment, our hands-on Marine Ecology Programs are designed to inspire conservation and tackle the urgent environmental issues affecting our coastline.

FRC’s Marine Ecology Program provides an experiential and exciting outdoor educational field trip for students, including:

  • Learning how to engage in hands-on marine mammal observation, identification, and survey,
  • Exploring the diverse and fragile intertidal zone and its beautiful life forms,
  • Keeping a field journal to record scientific data, thoughts, and sketches,
  • Studying current and historic ecological interconnections,
  • Discussing the importance of biodiversity and marine conservation,
  • Team building and collaborative learning in an outdoor classroom setting
  • Groups spending the night will camp at one of the beautiful State Park campgrounds, or sleep inside the buildings of the historic fort compound if available.

Marine Mammal Monitoring

Marine Mammal Monitoring – Students learn about the different species of marine mammals along our coast and practice identifying them. After an introduction to citizen science and our monitoring methods, students survey our resident pinnipeds (harbor seals, California & Steller Sea Lions) using spotting scopes and binoculars to further hone their observation skills.

Rocky Intertidal Zone – Tidepooling provides hands-on exploration of the unique landscape and diverse species that live within the rocky intertidal zone. By immersing ourselves in this environment, we observe the balance between these small yet significant creatures and their habitat, and how this balance affects the whole intertidal zone, the large marine mammals, and our entire coastal ecosystem.

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.

Program Fees:

Minimum program cost of $300. For school groups, parents and teachers can join the program free of charge

Cancellations – The following is Fort Ross Conservancy’s program cancellation policy.

  • Programs may be cancelled for 48 hours after booking. After 48 hours, a $100 cancellation fee will be billed to your organization.
  • If either Fort Ross Conservancy or California State Parks choose to cancel a program due to unsafe conditions (weather, road conditions, or operational issues), your program will be transferred, free of charge, to a later date. 
  • If the applicant school must request to reschedule a program date, Please do so by emailing Operations Manager, Sarah thompson SaraT@fortross.org .

Please make checks payable to FRC-ELP.  We also accept credit card payments.

Financial assistance Available! Public lands and outdoor learning experiences should be available to all, irrespective of the cost, and FRC aims to minimize the financial challenges that keep kids from taking important field trips. Thanks to the generous support from our donors we have created the Fort Ross Education Fund to offer program fee waivers and/or transportation subsidies to schools that would otherwise be unable to participate. We welcome teachers of all schools to apply! 

Marine Ecology Curriculum (under construciton)

Marine Ecology Program Manual (under construction)

Required Forms that need to be turned in to FRC: