Tide Pool Etiquette at Duxbury Reef


Duxbury Reef, located at the edge of the Bolinas headland as the largest shale reef in North America. This reef and its surrounding waters are home to billions of creatures from the microscopic to harbor seals, sharks and visiting whales–in an ecosystem of truly astonishing complexity. Our human experience of the reef is enriched if we know how to respect and protect this ecosystem while learning about its fascinating inhabitants. On Saturday October 25, the Bolinas Museum presents Ocean Wonders: Sea & Sunset tour, (by reservation) a tide pool etiquette walk with Bruce Bowser, who serves on the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) Advisory Council and is a trained reef docent for the GFNMS and the California Academy of Sciences’ Rocky Shore Partnership.

The Gold Rush era ship Duxbury left its name on the reef after briefly running aground, but the three miles of rough reef rock has been the scene of many shipwrecks. The reef’s shale is sturdy enough to withstand the powerful ocean, yet soft enough for such organisms as sea urchins, chitons and rock boring clams to make countless niches for themselves and others. Reef inhabitants evolved ingenious adaptations for withstanding the intense challenge of living in a fierce environment of pounding waves and inundation by seawater alternating with exposure at low tide to drying sun and wind and to predators. They must also adjust salt content in their bodies, have very specific feeding and protective techniques and now face warming water temperatures. Add to these challenges the incursion of humans.

Generations of visitors to the reef have trampled reef life and carried off countless buckets of animals–from Bay area families foraging snails, abalone, crab, clams, mussels and seaweed for food and scientists over-collecting, to casual visitors or bus loads of school children. Toxins from shipwrecks, land run off and chemicals are another threat.
All have unintended but devastating effects on the fragile balance of this ecosystem.

Conservation of Duxbury Reef was instigated by Gordon Chan, a marine biology professor at College of Marin, who intensely studied the reef in the 1960s. Alarmed by his findings, he compiled irrefutable scientific evidence that the health of this reef depended on it being protected. Chan’s leadership resulted in Marin County creating Duxbury Reef State Marine Reserve in 1971. Yet it took decades more to protect the reef as it is today– under firm state and federal regulations, with Marin County Parks jurisdiction of the upland area.

Over several decades Gordon Chan, fellow marine biology professor Al Molina and former County Naturalist Bob Stewart were instrumental in educating and inspiring thousands of students and the public to value the reef. That legacy is carried on today
by educators like Professor Joe Mueller at College of Marin, and dedicated conservation organizations with members like Bruce Bowser who work to protect the reef through monitoring and education.

Bowser’s lifelong passion for ocean advocacy led him to the GFNMS Advisory Council in 2006, where he also chaired the working group that developed the Bolinas Lagoon Ecosystem Restoration Project. Bowser has dedicated much of his adult life to grassroots and environmental non-profit work. He is semi retired as an international commercial interior and graphic design professional. He and his wife Marlie de Swart moved to Bolinas in 1992. Bowser’s deep commitment to preservation and his joy in sharing the wonder of Duxbury Reef are contagious. Tour space is limited so please make your reservation now by calling (415) 868-0330. $20 general / $15 Bolinas Museum members. For more information visit bolinasmuseum.org. This event is part of the Ocean: Wonders & Wellness exhibitions and programming at Bolinas Museum where admission to the Museum is always free.