Film beautifully tells story of intertidal zone

  • By Sharon Wootton
  • Friday, May 2, 2014 12:45pm
  • Life

It won’t be nominated for an Academy Award, but the National Park Service’s Science Minute Movies series through the North Coast &Cascades Science Learning Network is well worth your time.

The latest of the 18 videos is the 12-minute-long “Tides of Change,” featuring marine ecologist Steven Fradkin.

Fradkin’s climate change research project involves the intertidal zone of Olympic National Park. Each year he monitors a strip of intertidal zone at Sokol Point near Rialto Beach and the Chilean Memorial, which commemorates the 1920 wrecked Chilean ship W.J. Pirrie, which left no survivors.

There’s “no doubt that climate change is happening,” Fradkin said, and it will change to the fundamental nature of the intertidal zone.

The 10-meter-long strip has barnacles at the top, mussel beds below. Fradkin said these life forms will be adversely affected by climate change because, as the temperature increases, the zone will become hotter and drier for marine life “already on the fringe.”

There’s no smoking gun, no one incident that proves climate change is occurring, Fradkin said; that proof will develop over a longer period of time.

But acidification of the ocean is happening now, and that altered chemistry will adversely affect marine life and by extension, the food available to humans, he said.

“Climate change is a critical challenge for the National Park Service today,” said Olympic Park superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.

“Science, research and monitoring help us understand the impacts of climate change, and enable us to adapt and respond.”

The photographic quality of “Tides of Change” is very good, much better than one might expect. Fradkin’s explanations of the research and life in the intertidal zone never bogs down with scientific minutia.

Jerry Freilich, director (and part-time video producer) of the North Coast &Cascades Science Learning Network said his office administers scientific permits for researchers from around the world, and has 70 to 80 active research projects running at any one time.

“They come from far and wide to study in the park because the park does not have those impacts caused by civilization,” Fradkin said.

Projects include research on tidepool creatures, ice worms in the glaciers, climate change and the effects of restoring the Elwha River.

Some of the projects become video subjects. They run up to 18 minutes long, with about half under five minutes long. To see them, go to

I spy: Spring is in full swing and birdwatchers are out in full force, and are reporting their sightings to Tweeters, a birding email list.

Close to home, about 1,500 to 2,000 dunlins and mixed western and least sandpipers were bunched up in the mudflats north of the Everett marina parking lot, and five or six long-billed dowitchers were in the ponds along Eide Road, Camano Island, wrote a Mountlake Terrace birder.

One Everett bird-watcher reported watching two adult ospreys on what appeared to be an active nest on the top of a cell tower on 112th Street in Everett, just east of I-5 near Silver Lake.

The most enjoyable of recent posts was from a Snohomish County resident. He wrote about a conflict between a pair of towhees and a resident Douglas squirrel, who seemed intent on running them out of its territory.

With vocal blustering, he raced up a cedar tree in full chase of the female. She flew off, but then the squirrel came down to the base of the tree and grumbled at the other towhee at the feeder.

That was the last straw for the male towhee, who fluffed up, opened his tail, showing the white feathers on the side.

“The squirrel stopped yelling as if it had been shot, and after some twitchy body language, ran up the tree and settled down. The female joined her mate on the feeder, and dipped her head as if to say, ‘Thanks, dear .…’”

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or

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