My name is Bella Reyes and I am so excited to have started my first week as the Marine Ecology Intern at the Point Reyes National Seashore! As I drove up to my new summer home, I was greeted by the sound of the waves splashing against the beach. The night was pitch black but I knew the view was going to be stunning in the morning. I was right. Intern housing is right on the Tomales Bay. It is quite a sight.
We jumped right into the field within the first few minutes of my first day! An adult female Blue whale washed up to shore last week after being hit by a cargo ship strikes. Very unfortunately, whales that feed near the Point Reyes coast will sometimes get hit by ships and die. The yearly rate has been increasing all along the California coast. Scientists believe this may simply be due to an increase in the whale population.
Along with the California Academy of Sciences, we went out to the field to assess the damage. She had 17 broken vertebrae and 11 broken ribs. It was a nasty hit. Point Reyes and several other groups are brainstorming ways to mitigate these ship strikes.
Later in the week, we read the tags off of Elephant seals to better understand where they are coming from. Elephant seals are incredible and mysterious creatures. Some of these animals had traveled hundreds of miles to snooze on Drake’s Beach in Point Reyes while they molt their fur and skin! They pile on top of each other because the molting phase is very itchy and the feel of one another soothes the itch.