Chumash Subsistence

As a complex society of hunter-gatherers, the Chumash people relied heavily on marine life found within the tide pools in Santa Barbara.  As a primary source for subsistence practices, many species of shellfish and other marine wildlife provided essential nutrients to supplement the scarcity of terrestrial mammals along the California coastline.  As populations expanded throughout the Late Holocene period, species such as the black abalone became a staple in the Chumash diet.  Not only did the Santa Barbara Chumash obtain key nutrients from the intertidal zone, but other species found in the tide pools served in the development of obtaining higher trophic foods.  For example, the circular shell fishhook was critical in the advancement of new fishing methods as well as toggling harpoons for use in shallow waters.  In addition, Olivella biplicata, or the purple olive snail, was used to make money beads, which became essential for economic exchange following European contact in the mid-sixteenth century.


Marine Corp Air Station

Prior to UCSB being established as an institution, it was an air station used to train Marines in close air support and a training base for numerous squads during WWII.  They would do operations like torpedo runs, parachute drills, and beach assaults.  This was all in preparation for the Pacific theater and possible threat from the Japanese.  The Japanese even shot a torpedo at the coast of Santa Barbara to show their presence.  This disregard of the tidepools persisted because war was imminent and tidepools weren’t the priority.  This training would harm the animals in the waters and coastline where it took a more watchful community to care for the tide pools.


Santa Barbara Oil Spill 1969

The Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 had a major impact on the tide pools ecosystem of Isla Vista. The results of the spill were quite deadly as 21,000 gallons of crude oil flowed through into the Santa Barbara Channel on January 28th. Loss of marine life was a major repercussion of the spill, as thousands of marine birds, mammals and fish were killed. The effects on the tide pools was colossal. The beaches and the tide pools were covered in dark oil and the water was tinted black. As of a result of the spill, the National Environmental Policy Act was signed in an effort to prevent events such as this from harming the environment in the future (LA Times). 


Floatopia/General Partying




The main environmental effect of big parties such as Floatopia/Deltopia and of smaller parties is the garbage that is left behind. In addition to this, the large quantities of people that trekked over the beaches disturbed the habitat and harmed species of algae, plants, and animals.





Human-environmental relationship of tide pools
Importance of minimizing foot traffic:

Human foot traffic can have a profound negative effect on tide pool ecosystems.  Although there are ways to easily avoid it, trampling of species in the intertidal zone can significantly harm organisms in frequently visited tide pools.  Heavy foot traffic can cause the loss of algae on rocks, which negatively affects the food chain by removing some of the most basic nutrients.  Additionally, algae loss can eliminate shelter areas for other species.  If navigated correctly, explorers can avoid stepping on organisms or removing essential algae from the ecosystem.  By carefully stepping through the tide pools in Isla Vista, you can observe marine life without disrupting the environment.  


Interview with Scott Simon (MSI REEF):

The biggest problem that tide pools are currently facing: the long-term quality of the water. Surface temperatures of the ocean are rising and the amount of pollutants (Carbon dioxide, garbage) ending up in the water is increasing. This is a direct result of anthropogenic influences, primarily climate change. As the ocean temperatures are warming, many species will not be able to survive in the warmer waters.

According to Scott, most people think that trampling is a major problem that tide pools face. However, as counterintuitive as it may be, trampling can actually be beneficial to the tide pool ecosystem. The organisms living in tide pools are accustomed to disturbances such as waves beating on them. Additionally, the organisms have short life cycles and are fast growing. In other words, tide pools are not a delicate ecosystem, and humans are merely adding to the disturbance. Humans trampling is not nearly as much of a negative influence as one may expect, but this does come with its exceptions. Human effects on tide pools can be extremely negative if people start to move organisms.

Coolest thing that you’ve ever seen: At low tide in the channels that form on the beach between the tide pools, we saw a big swarm of leopard sharks, right by the steps at the end of DP. There are also lots of hermit crabs in this area that live in the shells of the Olivella snail (Olivella biplicata) and you can see them all over in the tide pools. However, it is rare to see the actual Ollivella snail in the tide pools or even out snorkeling in the area. Most offensive thing that Scott has seen is described as the “bucket brigade”, where people bring their buckets to the tide pools and collect organisms. Sometimes they get put back, often not in the right place, and sometimes they get taken. 

Tips for exploring tide pools

Best time of the year to explore Isla Vista’s tide pools:

·      Late fall through late spring

  • During summer, the tide pools are filled in with sand, making for minimal tide pools

  • During winter,

Best place to tide pool in Isla Vista:

·      Coal Oil Point

Useful applications to explore tide pools (can be found in the App Store): 

  • Tidepool- used to identify species in California tide pools 
  • Tide Graph- information about the tide patters, current tides, and future tides. Helpful for determining when to go tide pooling. 


General do’s and don’ts:

(From Scott Simon) 


  • Make sure to check the tides, low tide is the best time to go tide pooling

  • When exploring the tide pools, look first

  • Observe the organisms in their natural environment

  • Make sure to touch stuff!


  • Bring a bucket- you don’t need it and this leads to major negative disturbances

  • Put organisms in a different pool from the one you found them in

  • Take orgaisms from protected areas

    • West of Campus Point is not a Marine Protected area

    • East of Campus Point (towards Sands Beach) is a protected area

  • Turn your back on the ocean (NOAA) 

 Common species to look for

  • Algae

    • Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera)

    • Common Rockweed (Fucus vesiculosus)

    • Sea Palm (Postelsia palmaeformis)

    • Feather boa kelp (Egregia menziesii)

  • Anemones- hard to spot at first if they are on rocks not covered in water

    • Giant Green Anemone (Anthopleura xanthogrammica)

    • Solitary Anemone (Anthopleura sola)

  • Arthropods

    • Goose barnacle or gooseneck barnacle

    • http://www.asnailsodyssey.com/LEARNABOUT/GOOSE/goosSett.php

    • Lined shore crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes)

    • Decorator crab (Loxorhynchus crispatus)  

  • Echinoderms

    • Sea Urchins- Purple and Red Sea Urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus/franciscanus)

    • Sea Stars- Giant Spined Sea Star (Pisaster giganteus), Ochre Sea Star (Pisaster ochraceous), Bat Star (Patiria miniata), Brittle Star (Amphiodia occidentalis), Pink Sea Star (Pisaster brevispinus)

    • Sea cucumbers- Warty Sea Cucumber (Parastichopus parvimensis)

  • Molluscs

    • Mussels (Mytilus californianus) 

    • Abalone- rare to find, some species endangered, black abalone were most commonly found in tide pools



    • California Sea Hare (Aplysia californica) 

    • Fingernail limpets (Lottia digitalis) 

  • Vertebrates

    • Tide Pool Sculpin (Oligocottus maculosus) 

    • Northern Clingfish (Gobiesox maeandricus)