Sunday, February 1, 2009
Passion on the beach
My camera trapping buddy, University of the Pacific Professor Rich Tenaza just sent me these pictures.
At this time of year he takes his marine mammals class to Piedras Blancas beach on the San Luis Obispo coast.
There the northern elephant seals are heavily into the annual rite of reproduction. This is a topic you expect students to be interested in.
In the category of free-wheeling fighting and fornication it puts to shame the spring break antics on any beach in Florida.
But Rich says the students just don't get off on field trips the way we did. Apparently, some view them as an inconvenience.
I suppose we were a minority even among the biology undergrads, but nowadays the minority is even smaller.
I remember my one and only trip to Ano Nuevo Island with Dr Robert T. Orr, and Dr Thomas C. Poulter.
What a privilege. I was a highly impressionable undergraduate, and it was simply thrilling.
It wasn't just the din and wonderment of battle-scarred pinnipeds.
It was the place -- the abandoned coast guard station with sea lions looking out the second story windows, the rugged California coast, the tides we battled to reach the doodoo-covered rocks. It was being there at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the very same ocean that lapped Asia thousands of miles away . . . it was terribly stimulating.
I guess that's why Rich found one student's comment so strange (and I paraphrase): "Why should we go on a field trip and pay money for a motel when we can see those animals on Animal Planet?"