Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve title=
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve
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By Robert Bernstein

My unicycling partner Danielle has a son Charles who is exceptionally skilled at finding and gently handling wildlife. We all met up at Coal Oil Point Reserve to see what Charles could find. The dream find would be an octopus.

Here are all my photos and videos!

While we were waiting to meet up with Danielle and Charles we met up with Cris Sandoval and Kevin Lafferty who have managed Coal Oil Point Reserve for decades.

They are scientists and also excellent caretakers of this precious habitat. One of their greatest successes has been the restoration of the snowy plover such that there have been generations of baby plovers born under their stewardship.

One of the greatest challenges has been with dogs, which are rightly perceived as a threat by the plovers. A plover does not have to be killed to keep it from breeding. Just a perceived threat is enough. Please do your part and do not bring dogs into any wildlife preserves.

Cris Sandoval explained that the tidepools at Coal Oil Point Reserve are a Marine Protected Area. She said that this protection keeps this area diverse and rich in marine life.

We saw these odd patches of broken seashells on the beach:

We quickly realized these were sea anemones that had been exposed at low tide. Kevin explained that the anemones actively collect the shell fragments to protect themselves from exposure. He also told us that many of these anemones are 100 years old or more! Even more reason to be careful where you walk around tidepools.

Of course this is how they look when happily submerged:

We also were happy to see vertebrate wildlife like this heron, with Isla Vista as its backdrop.

And this egret taking off nearby.

Eventually we met up with Danielle and Charles who had already been scouting for a while.

Charles soon spotted this small fish:

And a number of crabs, including this one:

Charles started carefully turning over rocks. After just a few tries, we saw a tentacle poking out. Yes! It was good-sized octopus! A two-spot octopus. So named because they can make two blue spots appear, one on each side. As you can clearly see below and to the right of the eye of the octopus in this photo:

Here is a video of Charles and Danielle with the octopus and a bit at the end where I got to briefly hold it.

Definitely the highlight of the day!

There were some other interesting finds as well. Charles pointed out this chiton embedded in a rock. Chitons are marine mollusks.

Related to this other mollusk that he found

And, of course, we saw plenty of these mollusks that we all know well!

And Merlie spotted this small shrimp which I briefly caught on video as it quickly darted around.

In case you don't recognize Danielle without her unicycle, here we were together just before the start of the Solstice Parade in 2017!

Here are more photos of us in Pali's Flaming Heart Grand Finale that year when the theme was "Celebrating Unity"!


[Ed Note: The article has been updated with an explanation that the tidepools are a protected area, per the author.]

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a-1614015441 Feb 22, 2021 09:37 AM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

I may be nuts but I think we should leave wildlife alone and not pick it up or disturb it for a photo op. You can get a great photo from a distance without potentially harming marine life.

ZeroHawk Feb 22, 2021 12:40 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

omg people really? now you are going to collectively complain about people checking out marine life in tide pools? move to bakersfield....then you won't have to hear about these awful people that gently pick up marine life in tide pools to inspect and educate themselves about. yeah! let's also free all of them that are at the sea center too. let's stop fishing while we're at it, and sailing and boating all together. Seriously folks, get a better hobby. These people produced great photos, names and educational material for the masses and you want to pick it apart? PEOPLE HANDLE MARINE LIFE ALL OF THE TIME ACROSS THE GLOBE. Get over it.

SBLoc1960 Feb 25, 2021 04:25 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

so its ok to gently hold the plover chicks? yay! Lets go, I want to check them out! See ya there...

PitMix Feb 22, 2021 10:07 AM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Yeah, I thought the oils on your hands were harmful to marine life? Plus the sanitizer or whatever else you might have on them these days.

Babycakes Feb 22, 2021 10:11 AM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

I don't think there's much harm in turning over a bunch of rocks to discover what lies beneath. It seems that Robert and his friends were just enjoying nature seeing what hidden things they could find, and they found this little guy. I believe Robert is a scientist, and knows what he's doing and how to handle sea/land animals with minimal invasion. It was probably quite an adventure for the octopus....plus, it's not good to hide under a rock all day!

Babycakes Feb 22, 2021 10:40 AM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

I thought Robert was a scientist. A quick "goog" search came up with this from the UCSB META Lab:
Robert Bernstein has an MS from UCSB Physics 1984 and a BS in Physics from MIT 1980. ......His career has primarily been directed at designing and developing research instruments, most notably atomic force microscopes, as a founding member of Digital Instruments with mentor Virgil Elings......His MIT Physics thesis with Ed Fredkin was directed at understanding the informational nature of the physical universe.....Robert has participated in UCSB Psychology seminars for over twenty years and attends major academic conventions on consciousness, such as the Tucson Conference and the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness conventions."

Voice of Reason Feb 22, 2021 01:11 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

A physicist is a scientist, which you (anonymous poster) said he is not. Just like an apple is not an orange, but they are both fruit.

a-1614029921 Feb 22, 2021 01:38 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

VOR, really excited to see you ask for a doctor, any type of doctor, when you need a surgery.

biguglystick Feb 23, 2021 10:38 AM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Babycakes, yes it IS good to hide under a rock all day if you are a sea creature that needs to hide from predators (including humans). Please LEAVE THEM ALONE. Look with your EYES and DON'T TOUCH!

spearo Feb 22, 2021 10:25 AM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

If any of these people were scientists they should know that Coal Oil Point is inside the Campus Point SMCA (state marine conservation area). Which outlaws basically all of what you people did.

"It is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living, geological, or cultural marine resource for commercial and/or recreational purposes, with the following specified exceptions:
Take pursuant to the operation and maintenance of artificial structures inside the conservation area is allowed pursuant to any required federal, state and local permits, or as otherwise authorized by the Department."

Don't touch the animals. Don't touch the rocks. Don't stomp around the tide pools. Stay above the mean high tide line.

You eco-warriors pushed your agenda to get this reserve installed, abide by the rules, just like the fishermen that lost this area have to.

sacjon Feb 22, 2021 01:02 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

SPEARO - Sorry you hate those who try to protect our natural environment, but you're wrong and it's clear your "concern" is just a backhanded swipe at "eco-warriors." NOTHING in the CDFW outlaws walking among tide pools and picking up shells to look at. Further, while it's not the best practice, even picking up and handling an octopus is not a "taking" within the regs - "the term “take” is defined by Fish and Game Code section 86 as hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill. " ---- gently picking up an octopus to look at and take photos is neither hunting, pursuing, catching, capturing or killing. It's just picking one up and looking at it. I agree they should have left it alone, but it's not illegal to do anything they did.

PitMix Feb 22, 2021 01:41 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

I bet the octopus voted against being handled by an apex predator who eats calamari and octopi. Too bad for them we don't have to listen to them.

sacjon Feb 22, 2021 01:48 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

PITMIX - I bet the octopus voted FOR people like Roger and other thoughtful humans who gently handle it and put it back, and FOR biologists who also handle and study them in order to help their species thrive.

Remember folks, you don't need to be a "scientist" to know how to properly and gently handle wildlife. All you need is compassion and an understanding of the creature you're touching.

ZeroHawk Feb 22, 2021 01:49 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

yuk...who eats calamari? and that is squid BTW, not octopus. ive had both, and both are just as fishy and gummy as you would think.

PitMix Feb 22, 2021 04:33 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Sac, no way that octopus voted to be handled, even if it was St. Francis himself. Look but don't touch, please.

sacjon Feb 22, 2021 04:54 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

PIT - and no way that octopus knew Robert and his pals eat calamari and octopi. So what's your point?

Minibeast Feb 22, 2021 08:08 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

PITMIX: I like you more and more all the time. Everyone: Stay out of the tide pools. Just walking around on the rocks is causing harm. Poking, prodding, handling are all invasive activities. Admire from afar and leave such ecosystems be.

PitMix Feb 23, 2021 07:58 AM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Sac, my point was that prey animals have an instinct to avoid predators. Octopus are a favorite food of a lot of predators including people. So that experience would be very distressing for them. IF you can't understand that, then I don't know what else to say.

sacjon Feb 23, 2021 09:12 AM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

PIT - I know what your point was, I was just messing with you. I've said multiple times here, handling and holding the octupus is not a good idea. But, have you never picked up a hermit crab or snail?

spearo Feb 23, 2021 10:23 AM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

It's right there in your text: "the term “take” is defined by Fish and Game Code section 86 as hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill. "

What part of "pursue, catch, capture...or attempt to pursue, catch, capture" do you not understand? And walking over tide pool rocks DOES actually kill and/or damage many numbers of smaller invertebrates and algae.

So yeah, it is illegal. And that is because of the laws of that MPA. Killing and harming is killing and harming. Doesn't matter if it's for food or for a lame post on edhat. Obey the laws that are in place.

biguglystick Feb 23, 2021 10:39 AM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

I am certain that the octopus didn't enjoy being handled. How would YOU like some giant thing to pick you up high and examine you? No... didn't think so.

sacjon Feb 23, 2021 10:45 AM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

SPEARO - they didn't take the octopus. They held it and looked at it for a while. That is not a "taking." "Pursue, catch, capture" is for the purpose of taking (ie, pursuing animals to catch, capturing crabs, etc), not picking up an octopus to look at it. I've fished salt and fresh all over this area my whole life and I know what a taking is. Walking on rocks is not a taking either. Stomping on sea anemones is, but not just standing on a bare rock. Kicking, picking, standing on critters is bad and should not be done. No one here is saying that. Algae?? You're concerned about tide poolers killing algae now? How about you call up the CDFW and report an algae "taking" hahaha!

No, it's NOT illegal to explore tide pools carefully, even these ones. It IS illegal though to harm or kill sea life in this area. That didn't happen. Show me where in these videos they were standing on sea life?

By your logic, walking on the beach is a taking if you step on a sand flea. Do you see how absurd that is? Everyone off the beach! Spearo is protecting the ants and sand fleas from being hunted to extinction!

ZeroHawk Feb 23, 2021 03:58 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Sac...you and I are together on this thread, and possibly the only two with a reasonable comment. Frankly, this is sad! These people must live a very sad, boring and colorless life out of fear and over thinking things. Meanwhile you and I are at the tide pools enjoying the beauty of life and the sea....

ZeroHawk Feb 23, 2021 03:58 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

hey Pit, that's your weird opinion, not fact and nothing more than that. Please make sure you realize this....

ZeroHawk Feb 23, 2021 04:01 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

you're wrong, the intent is to educate, view, observe, inspect, not kill. your point is...well pointless and a really pathetic argument missing key verbiage.

sacjon Feb 22, 2021 10:38 AM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Oh stop people. Checking out tide pools is perfectly legal and something any inquisitive person does. Yeah, leave the octopus alone and don't keep bugging it, but it's OK to pick up shells to look at. Come on. If we didn't have caring, curious people out there exploring and observing wildlife, we'd be a society of dullards.

ZeroHawk Feb 22, 2021 12:43 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Sac, fully agree and some of these comments...good god what is wrong with these people. picking them apart for doing what we do with tide pools.

LincolnLady Feb 22, 2021 10:43 AM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Nice photos, good intentions. It's nice to get out and enjoy our natural resources in our fresh sea air. I'd leave the little water creatures alone, as per the reasons noted by Pitmix. Dogs need to be on a leash at low tide and their "deposits" removed. The only sea creatures I'd bother would be during surf fishing (with a license and at the appropriate times). The bigger the fish creature I bother the better. Cooked in olive oil, relished with tartar sauce...yum. So what I'm trying to say is there's appropriate bothering and inappropriate bothering of sea creatures. :-)

Sail380 Feb 22, 2021 12:13 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Its ok for the privileged to enter an area prohibited from public access to abuse wildlife. Just get ready to have more of our state lands and sea set aside and our access prohibited.

https://deadline.com/2020/10/california-governor-gavin-newsom-orders-30-of-states-lands-be-preserved-by-2030-1234593112/

sacjon Feb 22, 2021 12:24 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

SAIL380 - This area is NOT prohibited. The only thing you can't do here is take marine life (ie, fishing, clamming, etc). NOTHING in the CDFW regs prohibit people from checking out tide pools at Coal Oil Point or picking up shells. Messing with an octopus is not cool, but it's not necessarily unlawful either, UNLESS you capture it to kill.

Sail380 Feb 22, 2021 12:48 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

SACJON I lifted this directly from there website. Reads to me that the average public citizen is not welcome to visit.

Using COPR Facilities and Visiting the Reserve
Coal Oil Point Reserve and its facilities are available to researchers, university level classes, 8th - 12th grade classes, and community groups doing an activity related to the reserve.

The reserve and its facilities are not available for commercial or personal use.

There are 3 types of applications: Research, Class (university level), and Public (all others such as community field trips, volunteer days, etc). All application types can be found here.(link is external)

Before visiting, please choose the appropriate application and submit the complete form online. For each visit, submit a reservation. If multiple visits for the same activity are planned, please open the reservation, and under the "Participants" tab, click "Add visit" (bottom right of page). More information and links are available on the pages for Research, Class, and Tours.

sacjon Feb 22, 2021 12:55 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

SAIL380 - Haha, you mean this page with the photo of the actual facilities? https://copr.nrs.ucsb.edu/visiting/using-copr-facilities-and-visiting-reserve

Yeah, the buildings and reserve areas (ie, not the beach) are by appointment only. Did you honestly think "reserve and its facilities" meant the beach? It's been open to the public for as along as I can remember. You most definitely CAN visit the beach and tide pools. I have a feeling you've never been out there, have you?

dukemunson Feb 22, 2021 12:56 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Sail - Have you ever been to Coal Oil point? Because it sure doesn't seem like you have...

dukemunson Feb 22, 2021 12:57 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

(and since it doesn't sound like you have...definitely DON'T GO at low tide...nothing to see there...no good tide pools...just avoid avoid AVOID...terrible terrible spot)

ZeroHawk Feb 22, 2021 01:50 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Sail. So what. Who cares. Again, so what. You go hide behind the red tape. I go explore and tread lightly and learn and educate.

4nature Feb 22, 2021 03:23 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Hi Sail, what requires prior application is the use of the nature center, and field trips by classes, researchers, and organized groups. This is because we have a lot of users per year and tracking and scheduling these users helps us keep the reserve from overuse. We do daily counts of the number of people on the beach, the number of dogs (on and off-leash), and the number of Snowy Plovers and their nests. If we did not manage the reserve (or the people coming to the reserve), there would not be so much wildlife for you to enjoy. Note that the COPR is part of the UC Natural Reserve System since 1970 and it has a mission of supporting research, education, and conservation. COPR is not a public park, even though Sands Beach and the pond trail are open to the public. The public is very welcome, and thank you for giving us feedback on the website.

PitMix Feb 22, 2021 01:44 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” Just fulfilling our Christian and manifest destiny, right?

oceandrew Feb 22, 2021 02:20 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Thanks for sharing the lovely pics, ROBERT. It's nice to see experienced and knowledgeable folks leading tide pool excursions and probably also teaching proper handling and care for the beasties that are examined. Better than a bunch of yahoos stomping all over destroying everything they touch. Oh, and thanks for another excuse for the Ed drama to rear its ugly, polarized and often hateful excuse for human discourse.

SBsurfer77 Feb 22, 2021 02:38 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Thank you edhat and Robert for this experience, loved the pictures and video.
Disliked all the negativity in the comments.

patriciamalone Feb 22, 2021 03:26 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Thank you, thank you, Robert; the photos are beautiful! I recognize Charles from my student teaching year when he was in fifth grade; I'm delighted he is still exploring and appreciating nature! I still have an "Ode to a Squid" he wrote in fifth grade among my most treasured teaching mementos.

4nature Feb 22, 2021 04:30 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Thank you, Robert. There seems to be some confusion about the purpose of COPR so here is some information. We require a prior application for the use of the nature center, and field trips visits by classes, researchers, and organized groups. This is because we have a lot of users per year and need to track and schedule these users. Sands Beach and the pond trail are open to the public and visits by individuals do not require an application. Note that COPR is not a public park, it is a nature reserve. COPR is part of the UC Natural Reserve System since 1970 and it has a mission of supporting research, education, and conservation. We encourage all visitors to visit the COPR website to learn about natural history, protected areas, and activities permitted. Tidepooling, surfing, bird watching, jogging are examples of activities that can be compatible with wildlife. For activities such as sunbathing (where there is a lot of people), playing ball or frisbee, walking dogs, etc, are more appropriate for other beaches designated for recreation and have less wildlife. We manage Sands Beach with the goal to maintain public access and also protect the delicate wildlife that depends on it. This is one of the few beaches where you can see Snowy Plover chicks running around (ask a docent to show you in May, June and July). We do daily beach counts of the number of people, the number of dogs (on and off-leash), and the number of Snowy Plovers and their nests. If we did not study and manage the reserve (or the people coming to the reserve), there would not be so much wildlife for you to enjoy. We welcome the public and appreciate how much the reserve is important for many of you, particularly this last year. Thank all of you for helping preserve this beautiful area. Without this community’s support, the Snowy Plovers would not have been able to survive. If you want to help more, we have programs where you can volunteer as a plover docent, tour guide, or planting native species.

Babycakes Feb 22, 2021 05:26 PM
Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve

4Nature: Thank you so much for your dedication to protecting the environment, providing Edhatters with information and first-hand knowledge about COPR.
Is it okay if we (the visiting public) turn over rocks and pick up the things we see? I think it's a wonderful activity and learning experience to search out, find, and GENTLY handle sea creatures, Tidepooling is something that many of us have done for many/many years, but it seems that folks on this board firmly object to and are upset about the handling of this ONE octopus by the OP & Co (Robert Bernstein and friends).

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