Finding Treasure in Puget Sound

Our Salt Water Tide Pool is back open for the first time in more than 2 years! PacSci visitors can now once again meet anemones, hermit crabs, mussels, clams, barnacles, and more! But how do they get to PacSci? Follow the journey of how PacSci collects these animals for our Tide Pool.

Like most things, it all starts with paperwork. Our Animal Care Supervisor, Rachel Nelson, led the Tide Pool Collection project and submitted a permit application to Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), which allows PacSci as an education institute to collect species for the exhibit. WDFW requires all permit holders to identify what species are collected, how many, and where from, so the animals’ habitats and populations are not affected.

Two women on a beach
Alex Doubt steps inside a small tide pool to collect animals while Rachel Nelson walks in the background with an animal in hand.

Sea-zing the Moment

With permit in hand, our first stop: the beach! Rachel and our Living Exhibits Technician Alex Doubt went to two different beaches along the Puget Sound to collect the animals.

When collecting animals, timing is everything. The tide should be rolled back to spot animals properly. The lowest tides of the year typically coincide with the summer and winter solstice, with the best time being around an hour before low tide. If you’re curious about what the tides are now, find out at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.

The team brought several coolers, buckets, and ice with them to collect the animals as well as waterproof shoes and plenty of layers to fight off the chilly coastal winds.

Between two beaches, they were able to collect:

  • Aggregating anemones (Anthopleura elegantissima)
  • Mussels (Mytilus californianus)
  • Clams (Saxidomus spp.)
  • Hermit crabs (Pagurus spp.)
  • Limpets (Lottia pelta)
  • Mossy Chitons (Mopalia muscosa)
  • Acorn Barnacles (Balanus glandula)

Special thanks to our donor, Marine Science and Technology Center (MaST Center Aquarium) – Highline College, for donating a California cucumber, green and purple urchins, larger sea anemones, and a helmet crab!

Mossy chilton
Green urchin and barnacles
Helmet crab

Home Sweet Home

Next stop: PacSci! After arrival, it’s important that the animals stay in the water collected from Puget Sound. Over several hours, Rachel and her team slowly acclimated the animals to the exhibit water by taking small tubes and lining the tank with water from our exhibit.

Once the animals are acclimated to the water, they arrive to their new home in the Tide Pool exhibit. Our exhibit comes with a robust water filtration system, including several filters to remove bacteria that may be detrimental to the animals. Our Animal Care Team monitors the water and the animals daily, including the water temperature, pH, and salinity, as well as any signs of stress in the animals.

The exhibit has multiple hiding spots for them to settle into before getting to know their other sea neighbors.

Buckets next to a water tank
Small tubes line the buckets with water from our Tide Pool exhibit water.

Exploring the Tide Pool

All guests are able to explore the Salt Water Tide Pool, which is located in Building 2 next to Just for Tots.

To prepare for your visit, we ask all guests to:

  • Rinse their hands in the adjacent sink to remove all soaps and lotions
  • Be gentle with the animals
  • Not pick up the animals or move them

We are also excited to announced our accessibility tank will open Spring 2023!

Learn more about our Salt Water Tide Pool.