A spectacular variety of life flourishes between the ebb and flow of high and low tide. Between the Tides in Washington and Oregon uncovers the hidden workings of the natural world of the shoreline. Richly illustrated and accessibly written, the guide illuminates the scientific forces that shape the diversity of life at beaches and tidepools.
Ryan P. Kelly is associate professor in the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs. Terrie Klinger is professor in the UW’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs. John J. Meyer is senior director of science communication in the UW’s College of the Environment.
Can you tell us a bit about Between the Tides in Washington and Oregon and what motivated you to write the book? How does it differ from other coastal guides?
Terrie Klinger: This book is about the wonder of the intertidal environment, why it is unlike any other on Earth, and the seaweeds and animals that have evolved to live in such a place. We wanted to share that wonder with others who might not be marine scientists. The title evokes Ed Ricketts’s Between Pacific Tides. Published in 1939, Ricketts’s book is widely held to be the classic in the field. We wanted to honor that book and the lasting influence it has had on each of us.
John J. Meyer: The Pacific Northwest is brimming with so much incredible life and beauty between the tides—the diversity of marine invertebrates and seaweeds is just stunning. We wanted to shine a light on these special places, which many folks don’t discover unless they just happen to be at a good rocky beach on a good low tide. A little planning can unlock a world you never knew was there!
Ryan P. Kelly: This book is an attempt to tell people why the species at the shore are where they are, rather than simply being another guide about what one might find there. It’s about ecology, about process. That’s pretty unusual in a book for non-specialists.
What are the main themes of the book and how are they brought to life?
Kelly: We wanted to show, rather than tell. While the themes are those that you might find in a course on marine ecology, we tried to bring those to life by highlighting examples that the reader might run across during a visit to particular places. That was the power of using individual places along the coast as a way to illustrate processes that happen in many other places as well.
Klinger: Intertidal habitats and the species that occupy them are our focus. Habitats determine who can live where, and once occupied, the residents in turn shape their habitats—like your neighbors shape your neighborhood. We try to shed some light on these complexities.
Meyer: To support showing not telling, this book is filled with many photos that are more than just pretty pictures; they are meant to visually bring the vignettes we write about to life.
Who is this book for and how would you recommend readers approach it?
Kelly: The book is for everyone! Mostly non-scientists, but the kinds of curious, outdoorsy people that might find themselves at the shore. We ended up with a lot of text at the beginning that bears reading straight through, but the geographically specific chapters are meant to be read in bits, perhaps as the reader is headed out on a road trip.
Klinger: Nearly anyone who likes to stroll along on the beach, stumble across slick rocks, and explore out-of-the way places along the Washington and Oregon coasts might find something of interest in this book. Readers can jump around to find fun facts and satisfy their curiosity or read from cover to cover for a consistent narrative. My friend Jane, who just celebrated her hundredth birthday, read all the place-based chapters before diving into the first two chapters.
Meyer: This book is meant for people who love to discover new things. So much of what’s living in the intertidal looks and behaves like nothing else, it’s almost like discovering organisms from another planet here on Earth.
Which location or site in the book is your favorite to visit and why?
Meyer: Second Beach in Olympic National Park is a favorite. I discovered it nearly thirty years ago while on a road trip and have gone camping there every summer since. I always couple my visit with a good low tide for some excellent tidepooling, which is backdropped against a spectacularly beautiful location.
Kelly: I just fell in love with Ecola State Park in Oregon during a research trip, and I’ve been back since. What a beautiful place.
Klinger: The rocky sites are my clear favorites. They’re chock-full of interesting species arranged in ways that beg for investigation and explanation.
What’s your favorite species profiled in the book? Are there any fun facts that you’d like to share?
Kelly: I did my PhD on chitons, and so I suppose I can’t resist a good chiton. Tonicella lineata, the lined chiton, is probably the most beautiful thing you’re likely to see on the outer coast.
Meyer: A friend of mine introduced me to the sea palm, Postelsia palmaeformis, years ago, and it’s been a favorite ever since. Watching hundreds of them getting bowled over by crashing waves and then pop back up is one of my favorite things to see.
Klinger: There are some fun facts for sure—for instance, the story about the horse stuck in a sea of foam—and I have a ton of favorite species. One favorite is the air-breathing sea slug called Onchidella—I’m always excited to find one.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
Klinger: I might hope readers deepen their curiosity about life in the intertidal and the puzzling complexity of nature all around us.
Kelly: A sense of wonder, really. But also a sense that there are answers to questions like “why is this snail here, but not over there?” There’s a degree of order to the apparent messiness of life along the shore, and uncovering the hidden rules that result in that order is really exciting.
Meyer: I think once you understand something a bit more, you care about it a bit more. I hope readers walk away indeed with a sense of wonder that also translates to stewardship.
April 11, 6:00 pm at the University Book Store: Learn more about the intertidal zone at an author talk with Terrie Klinger and Ryan P. Kelly. Register for this free event here.
May 13, 11:00 am–4:00 pm, at Friday Harbor Laboratories Open House: The San Juan Island marine biology field station of the UW College of the Environment, Friday Harbor Labs, invites the community to their annual Open House. Guests may meander about the campus and experience touch tanks, science demonstrations, seaweed pressing, and a science speaker series that will include a talk with Terrie Klinger. Visit the FHL news and events page and stay tuned for more details!