“Tidepooling: Embracing Alaska Through a Gentle Touch”

In the Summer of 2022, I moved 5,000 miles from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Seward, Alaska; I had no permanent housing, no friends, and little familiarity with the state’s rugged landscape – only a determined spirit that I trust has guided me on the right path. The decision to move was prompted by the desire to begin again; to rekindle my love of nature with a new, unexpected job at the fabulous Alaska SeaLife Center. As I’ve settled into my new life, I’ve come to embrace my new environment – the breathtaking mountainous terrain, the wild Pacific Ocean, my knowledgeable colleagues at the ASLC, and the exciting possibility of a new family life – all representing endless adventure in the last frontier.

Since the big move, observing the incredible diversity of wildlife in Seward has been among the most thrilling and satisfying experiences – whether encountered deliberately on hikes and tours or by pure happenstance with a surprise encounters on the highway. Tidepooling was just the ticket for my next adventure to discover more wildlife.

My plan was relatively loose – keep vigilant but let the journey take me where I needed to go (an attitude similar to that which had guided my recent life change). Cloudy weather accompanied me as I traversed the rocky coasts of Resurrection Bay at low tide, overturning rocks as I went along. My first find, a sea lamprey, was smooth and slippery to the touch. Washed up on the shore were dead Dungeness crab and moon jellies, listing back and forth with the gentle lapping of waves. Exposed kelp species boasted their impressive holdfast structures, allowing them to photosynthesize from a safe substrate. After climbing my way through the slippery, kelp-covered rocks of the intertidal zone, I was privileged to observe three purple ochre sea stars attached to a large, mussel-covered rock. Almost more satisfying was the spotted green sea urchin at the shore’s edge. I was able to identify its Aristotles Lantern, or toothed mouth structure, applying some natural history I had learned recently at the ASLC. As time passed and the tide started to rise, I felt compelled to turn around. However, the thrill of what may be around the next corner kept pushing me forward. I ended up walking nearly three miles in total and headed back to the parking lot when I felt I pushed my luck enough.

This experience, as well as living in Alaska so far, has taught me to be patient, yet tenacious; humble, yet proud of my efforts; and thankful – just plain thankful. From the simple lined chiton to the charismatic harbor seal, nature will bestow the gift of her vast and varied beauty to those who take the time to seek them out – something I will continue to do here in Alaska, whether from the safety of the ASLC’s indoor viewing, (touch tank included), or from the vantage point of the great outdoors. I will continue to embrace every experience and opportunity as it comes in my new home, whether sought out intentionally or by pure chance – trusting along the way all is meant to be as it is. As James Michener states in his novel Alaska, “Adventure and safe haven, that’s a good mix.”

Written by Seasonal Education Specialist Katie Cadoret

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