• Olivia Van Damme lays atop a tidepooling rock and uses her phone to photograph a species for city nature challenge.
    Community Science Coordinator Olivia VanDamme photographs species as part of a bioblitz documenting biodiversity along the California coast. Gayle Laird © California Academy of Sciences
  • A red and blue, five-armed sea star clings onto an algae-covered rock underwater.
    Participants in Snapshot Cal Coast may observe sea stars and other creatures in low-tide pools, like this echinoderm spotted at Pillar Point. Gayle Laird © California Academy of Sciences
  • Four community scientists crouch on rocks and tidepool outcrops to photograph species with their phones during a bioblitz.
    By recording flora and fauna sightings during bioblitzes, volunteers help create community-generated biodiversity data used by the state to understand and respond to climate change. Gayle Laird © California Academy of Sciences
  • Arya Natarajan holds a shell up as she photographs it with her iphone, standing shin-deep in a tidepool with blue overalls on.
    Snapshot Cal Coast volunteers are encouraged to pay extra attention to "most wanted" species, such as sunflower sea stars. Gayle Laird © California Academy of Sciences

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (May 30, 2024) — This summer, California families have a perfect excuse to connect with nature and explore the beach while contributing to biodiversity science and conservation. From June 1 to June 30, the annual community science effort Snapshot Cal Coast returns for its ninth year of documenting and exploring California’s abundant coastal biodiversity. This statewide effort aims to better understand nature in and beyond the state’s 124 marine protected areas by providing a crucial “snapshot in time” of the entire coastline. The event is part of the Academy’s Thriving California initiative to stop biodiversity loss, build resilience to climate change, and calls on community scientists of all ages to make and share observations of plants, seaweeds, and wildlife along the ever-changing coast.

All of the data collected during Snapshot Cal Coast informs the Early Warning and Forecasting System, a tool developed by the Academy’s Center for Biodiversity and Community Science in collaboration with and funded by the California Ocean Protection Council. By using community science observations and data, forecasting systems helps us track coastal health and predict how climate change might shape our coast’s biodiversity in the future.

“Community-generated data from previous years has drastically improved our understanding of how coastal species are faring amidst rising ocean temperatures, sea level rise, and other climate-related threats,” says Academy Co-Director of Community Science Rebecca Johnson, PhD. “From the northern shift in the ranges of many species to the documentation of the spread of invasive species, the observations made during Snapshot Cal Coast inform where to focus future conservation efforts.”

During the month of June, any observations made along the California coast on the free mobile app, iNaturalist, will automatically be added to Snapshot Cal Coast. Participants are welcome to attend bioblitz events hosted by the Academy and partner organizations, where volunteers record plant, seaweed, and animal sightings using iNaturalist. But getting involved can be as simple as making observations on your own.

For both budding and veteran community scientists, participating is a snap:

  1. Download the free iNaturalist app to your mobile device. Find a local beach, tidepool, or coastal trail that you can access safely.
  2. Take photos to make observations of wild plants, seaweeds, and animals anywhere on California’s coast. You can use your phone and the iNaturalist app, or you can use a camera and upload the photos to the iNaturalist website. All observations made between June 1-30 will count.
  3. Learn about your finds on the iNaturalist platform, as community members help identify your observations.

The goal of Snapshot Cal Coast is to learn as much as possible about all coastal flora and fauna, but volunteers are encouraged to pay extra attention to “most-wanted” species that are potentially invasive, or affected by changing ocean conditions.

“This year, we’re particularly interested in observations of Sunflower sea stars (Pycnopodia helianthoides), a critically endangered species whose population has been decimated by sea star wasting disease in the last decade,” says Johnson. “After successfully rearing the first generation of these iconic sea stars in Steinhart Aquarium, mobilizing communities through this month-long bioblitz is a critical next step of the project. The more eyes we have on the coast, the more likely we are to find them.”

Participants are especially encouraged to look out for any sea star species during the Solstice Sea Star Search through the entire month of June.

Members of the public visiting the coast during Snapshot Cal Coast can explore how to safely & respectfully tidepool here:

  1. Observe things where you find them. Never remove animals, rocks, shells, seaweeds, or plants from the tidepools.
  2. Walk gently, taking care to avoid stepping on animals or seaweeds.
  3. Do not “roll” rocks. Animals living on the underside of rocks can only survive there.
  4. Be aware of the wildlife around you and try to minimize disturbances.
  5. Be careful! Tidepools and rocky shorelines are slippery, and tides and waves can catch you off guard. Never turn your back on the ocean.
  6. Plan ahead: Use the Tide Finder web app where you can search for daytime low tides near you.

Snapshot Cal Coast is led and coordinated by the California Academy of Sciences, with help from the MPA (Marine Protected Area) Collaborative Network, California State Parks, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and with funding provided by the California Ocean Protection Council. For more information about Snapshot Cal Coast, visit the Academy’s website and view observations here.

When: June 1 - June 30, 2024

Academy Events

Find other events hosted by our many partners here!


Organizing and participating partners

  • California Academy of Sciences
  • California Ocean Protection Council
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • California MPA (Marine Protected Area) Collaborative Network
  • California State Parks
  • California State Parks: Asilomar State Beach
  • California State Parks: Carpinteria State Beach
  • California State Parks: Crystal Cove State Park
  • California State Parks: Half Moon Bay State Beach
  • California State Parks: Leo Carillo State Beach
  • California State Parks: Mendocino Section
  • California State Parks: Natural Bridges State Beach
  • California State Parks: North Coast Redwoods District
  • California State Parks: North Coast Redwoods District
  • California State Parks: Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park
  • California State Parks: San Luis Obispo Coast
  • California State Parks: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
  • Cabrillo College
  • Catalina Island Conservancy
  • Fort Ross Conservancy
  • Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
  • Greater Farallones Association - LiMPETS
  • Laguna Ocean Foundation
  • Los Angeles MPA Collaborative
  • Los Angeles County Natural History Museum
  • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center
  • Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
  • Morro Bay National Estuary Program
  • Noyo Center for Marine Science
  • Ocean Sanctuaries
  • Pillar Point Tidepool Stewards
  • Pacific Grove Natural History Museum
  • Pennington Marine Science Center
  • Queer Surf
  • Rotary Nature Center Friends (Oakland, CA)
  • Redwood National and State Parks
  • San Diego Natural History Museum
  • San Francisco State University
  • San Mateo County Parks
  • Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
  • Seymour Marine Discovery Center
  • Sonoma Coast State Parks
  • Sonoma Marine Protected Area MPA Collaborative
  • Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods
  • Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation
About the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution with a mission to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in scientific research and environmental education—all under one living roof. Museum hours are 9:30 am – 5:00 pm Monday – Saturday, and 11:00 am – 5:00 pm on Sunday. Admission includes all exhibits, programs, and shows. For daily ticket prices, please visit www.calacademy.org or call (415) 379-8000 for more information.

About Research at the California Academy of Sciences

The Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences is at the forefront of efforts to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. Based in San Francisco, the Institute is home to more than 100 world-class scientists, state-of-the-art facilities, and nearly 46 million scientific specimens from around the world. The Institute also leverages the expertise and efforts of more than 100 international Associates and 450 distinguished Fellows. Through expeditions around the globe, investigations in the lab, and analysis of vast biological datasets, the Institute’s scientists work to understand the evolution and interconnectedness of organisms and ecosystems, the threats they face around the world, and the most effective strategies for ensuring they thrive into the future. Through deeply collaborative partnerships and innovative public engagement initiatives, they also guide critical conservation decisions worldwide, inspire and mentor the next generation of scientists, and foster responsible stewardship of our planet.

Press Contacts

If you are a journalist and would like to receive Academy press releases please contact press@calacademy.org.

Digital Assets

Hi-res and low-res image downloads are available for editorial use. Contact us at press@calacademy.org to request access.