**This blog entry orginally appeared on the website oceanspaces.org.**/p>
This is the first in a three-blog series that will share field stories from graduate students conducting baseline monitoring of kelp forests in California’s North Coast region, one of 11 projects that make up the North Coast MPA Baseline Program.
Possibly the most interesting experience so far on the NCSR Subtidal Monitoring Project has been my first day at the Double Cone SMCA. This is a site that is a long distance from port and therefore very few people visit it recreationally. We didn’t know whether we should expect a sprawling reef or a couple of small rocks surrounded by sand.
On our fist dive, using a pre-selected point using previous side-scan sonar bathymetry data, we dropped down on a lone rock roughly one meter high with sand as far as we could see. Thus, our expectations were somewhat tempered as we made a second decent in a more promising location. We landed on a large pinnacle and were completely blown away by how much life was present. The site was littered with young-of-the-year rockfish, kelp and painted greenlings, and some of the largest black and vermillion rockfishes I’ve ever seen. The rock itself was covered with dog whelks, blood stars, and several species of Urticina sea anemones.
I’m excited to get the chance to explore this healthy reef again this season and find out what else it has to offer.
The North Coast MPA Baseline Program is composed of 11 projects and over 30 organizations collaborating to monitor a wide variety of habitats, build an understanding of human dimensions, and bring traditional knowledge to bear on ecosystem health. Visit the North Coast region page to learn more, and join the North Coast Monitoring Community to stay informed of activities in this region.