Intertidal Exploration – Point Pinos, Pacific Grove

IMG_0222Hello again! My name is Alyssa and I am currently an Applied Marine Science graduate student at CSU Monterey Bay. For my Marine Ecology class, I have been using my foldscope to take a closer look at marine life across the central coast of California.

On one of our recent class field trips, we visited the Point Pinos tide pools in Pacific Grove, CA. Located just outside of Asilomar State Beach, Point Pinos is home to an immensely rich intertidal habitat.

Taking full advantage of a fairly low tide, my Marine Ecology class spent all morning exploring the nooks and crannies within this remarkable intertidal environment.

Point Pinos tide pools – Pacific Grove, CA

During our morning of exploration, I collected small samples of several different types of algae (that were already detached from the substrate) to check out under my foldscope.


This small blade of seagrass was such an awesome thing to see up close. I was amazed to see that the edges of this blade were rigid, especially since to the naked eye they seemed perfectly straight.  Point Pinos has an impressive display of seagrass, which blankets large parts of the rocky intertidal.

Algae and other marine organisms, such as mussels, covering the rocky substrate in the Point Pinos Intertidal.

IMG_0251The specimen to the right appears to be a piece of red alga (Rhodophyta). Since it was floating as a small piece of broken alga, I was unable to properly identify it.  Red algae get their vivid red color from the phycoerythrin pigment.  Pretty neat! Despite lacking a proper identification, this still turned out to be an interesting specimen to look at beneath my foldscope!


Here is a specimen I was able to identify! This is a small piece of sea lettuce, Ulva, under my foldscope lens. Sea lettuce has a sheetlike appearance and is very thin. Viewing this specimen up close honestly shocked me. I had no clue such a thin piece of alga could be composed of such intricate little cells.

Before leaving Point Pinos, I was able to check out a washed up Velella velella beneath my foldscope. Definitely one of my favorite specimens that I have looked at so far!
IMG_0285Check out the magnificent shade of blue! Velella velella are also known as by-the-wind sailors. They are apart of the phylum Cnidaria and are fairly small in size. The often feed on plankton using their tentacles, but are harmless to humans. Uniquely, they float upon the ocean’s surface and utilize prevailing winds for distribution. Fun fact: their sails tend to naturally align with the direction of the wind! Mass strandings, like the one we observed at Point Pinos, are fairly common along the west coast during Spring.

I have had such fun experiences with my foldscope over the past few months. The semester may be ending, but my foldscope adventures definitely won’t be stopping any time soon. I am amazed by the affordability, ease of use, and sturdy nature of these little microscopes. There are so many more specimens for me to discover, I can’t wait to do some more exploring! Stay tuned 🙂

One Comment Add yours

  1. Manu Prakash says:

    That’s an incredible sample – Ulva. What a fascinating mosaic.

    Also; I wanted to ask the person coordinating the CSU group; could you please send me an email at manup at – I would like to send some latest focuslocking Foldscope to you guys; so you can test out the new version before we make it available to broader community.

    It;s such an inspiring community – I am thrilled to read the adventures/explorations you all are bringing to all other Foldscope users.


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