About the Animals

About Invertebrates

Many of the animals you will see at the HSU Marine Lab are invertebrates, meaning these species lack a spinal column. About 97% of all animal species on the planet are invertebrates comprising at least 1.5 million named species. Most of the invertebrates at the HSU Marine Lab live in the intertidal zone, which is the habitat that lays between high and low tides. The intertidal zone is a tough, dynamic environment of crashing waves and shifting sands, burning sun and drying wind. The animals that live here have adapted to this extreme environment. These species have developed many ways to cope; body parts that can anchor to a rock, shells that keep moisture in while exposed to the sun and wind, and a high diversity of camouflage ability.

Tide Pooling

Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and moon. In our area of the coast, there are two high and two low tides every day. In rocky shore ecosystems, tide pools are created during low tide. Tide pooling is best during minus tides and tide tables are available at many local stores and online. Please remember it is against the law to collect intertidal animals without proper permits. Click here to learn how to be a responsible tidepooler.

Whale Watching

Humpback, sperm, gray and blue whales, dolphins and porpoises including orcas may be seen off the Northcoast. Offshore whale-watching provides the best viewing; however, some of these animals can be seen from shore. Gray whales are the whale species most seen most commonly near Trinidad. They cruise by the HSU Marine Lab on their annual 12,000-mile migration from the seas near Alaska to breeding grounds in Baja California. It is in the shallow lagoons of Baja where gray whales spend the winter and birth their young. Most whale sightings in Trinidad occur between November and April, but gray whales can be seen throughout the year.

Seals and Sea Lions

Seals and sea lions are marine mammals that make up the order Pinnipedia, which means "fin-footed." Two major differences occur between a seal and a sea lion. Sea lions have external ears flaps and can maneuver on land using their rear flippers. Seals do not have any ear flaps and are not able to use their rear flippers for locomotion.

Elephant seals can be seen sometimes on Flatiron Rock, just off Trinidad State Beach. The spotting scope in front of the HSU Marine Lab provides viewing of these animals basking in the sun and swimming in the water. Harbor seals frequent the rocks below the Memorial Lighthouse lookout and can often be seen near the Trinidad Pier.

A few of the animals you'll see at the lab