Tidepooling Field trip (online)

Katryn Wiese, City College of San Francisco

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Tidepooling Field Trip online (developed for remote learning during COVID-19 pandemic); students will watch video and review photos to simulate a field experience as they explore Pillar Point tidepools (as they were on April 5, 2020).

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Introductory Oceanography course (undergraduate).

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Basics of Marine Organisms classification (can be part of a prelab assignment)

How the activity is situated in the course

End of the marine ecology/biology section.

Activity length

This activity takes a half day to complete -- typically done in two parts -- prereading assignment (~1 hour) and main lab assignment (~3 hours).


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Marine taxonomy, Marine ecology (including competitive exclusion and niches), feeding methods, intertidal zonation

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Identify intertidal organisms and classify them taxonomically and by feeding method and niche; evaluate similarities and differences of a variety of intertidal zones, among different locations; review human impacts on the intertidal zone

Other skills goals for this activity

Objectives: By the end of this week, students should be able to:

  • Identify, name, and taxonomically classify a variety of planktonic species found in San Francisco Bay.
  • Distinguish between meroplankton and holoplankton.
  • Distinguish between zooplankton and phyoplankton.
  • Explain the traits that classify an organism as plankton.
  • Capture observations of the shape and features of living marine organisms with labeled drawings and scales.
  • Compare and contrast plankton species found in Pillar Point, Fort Point, and Oyster Point.

Description and Teaching Materials

Technology Needs

Students need access to an internet-connected computer.


Student handout(copy of the relevant pages from lab manual)

Student instructions:


  1. Find prereading in your lab manual and complete it in pencil.
  2. Resources to assist:
  3. By the assignment deadline, upload completed prereading IN CANVAS.
    **Note: you can submit your prereading early in pieces with a request for feedback -- an excellent way to learn the material and build on that learning.
  4. Review instructor feedback and answer key; make corrections; and seek help if needed.


  1. Find lab in your lab manual and complete it in pencil.
    **For online students, click on link below for at-home samples.
  2. By the assignment deadline, upload completed lab IN CANVAS.
    **Note: you can submit your lab early in pieces with a request for feedback -- an excellent way to learn the material and build on that learning.
  3. Review instructor feedback and answer key; make corrections; and seek help if needed.


  1. Try to complete original lab again on own without looking up tables or resources.
  2. For this quiz, you will need to be able to ID the organisms you learned about in this lab and describe particular characteristics (just like lab), but you will be limited in your time. The intention is that you will have learned all these organisms already and be able to ID them by sight BEFORE you start the quiz and without any aids. So be sure you practice them all enough before you start.
  3. Complete lab quiz in CANVAS.


Online students: Complete this Tidepooling Lab using your lab manual, as though you were at the tidepools. In lieu of face-to-face exhibits, you will click on the various links below to access video footage. Note: there is no way to replace an actual field trip to the tidepools. You will not be able to feel textures or touch the organisms as you would like. You can, however zoom into the photos. Do your best! I hope that after this lab, you'll make your own trip to the tidepools to see these creatures live.


  1. Task: Let's go!
  2. Task: What Lies Where? Variation according to tidal zone -- Tidepooling Transect photo album.
    1. Click on the first photo and then on the i for information to see title and description of each photo as you click through them.
    2. The first 4 photos are to set the stage and explain the different environments;
    3. The remaining 7 photos are for you to use for your transect -- album ordered from highest tide level (PHOTO 1) to lowest (PHOTO 7), so work backwards in your lab manual.)
  3. Time to explore the rest of the tidepools!
    Review all the videos and photos shown below to complete the trip. As you're doing so, every time you see an organism, identify it and complete the information in one of the two tasks described below. Be sure you've included as well the photos you used for the What Lies Where? activity.

Extra resources for fun (don't include any of these organisms in your lab drawings!):

Teaching Notes and Tips

See tips section and extra resources (all kept up to date for current students) on class website.


I have students check answers against a key once they've turned in the lab. They are expected to make corrections and then study and practice before taking and end-of-week 20-minute quiz.

Here's how I handle the keys -- I release them to students AFTER the assignment deadlines -- so students can fully grade and review their own assignments. I grade the assignment they turned in for completion, thoroughness, and thoughtfulness, but not necessarily correctness. Turns out that if students aren't getting it, I can tell very easily by their answers, and I don't give them credit for answers that don't make sense, that don't fully address the question, etc. But if it's wrong, but they have a logical thoughtful effort applied, then okay. Students COULD technically get keys from previous semesters, other classes, or past semesters and use them, but if their answers are identical to any other students or to my key, they don't get credit. So in the end it doesn't help them. And most of their points come from weekly quizzes I have where I make them apply their understanding to new examples. The stakes are low on lab assignments because the answers don't need to be correct, just thoughtful and complete. I want to encourage students to use them to learn. Then I check that understanding on quizzes.

References and Resources

See tips section and extra resources (all kept up to date for current students) on class website.