Summer Camp Adventures by the Bay!

Written by: Alix Martin

“What is that?” KIDS for the BAY campers exclaimed as a stick-like creature ‘danced’ across a clump of sea squirts. The excited campers were gathered at the docks at Berkeley Marina, observing the inhabitants of a boat buoy, when they noticed the fascinating skeleton shrimp.

Skeleton shrimp are amphipods that play an important role in nutrient cycling and detritus removal, and can often be found feeding on top of and around sessile organisms such as sea squirts, also known as tunicates. These thin ghostly-looking creatures rear up and wave their arms in the air when taken out of the water, which often makes our campers giggle! “These shrimp are SO interesting!” said Eva. 

Days spent at the bay during KIDS for the BAY Summer Camp are always extra special because we see so much interesting wildlife! In between the fun nature investigation activities, campers get their wiggles out by playing active games that develop their understanding of bay and marine organism adaptations and food chains. If they’re lucky, they even get to see these food chains happening before their eyes!

In ‘belly biology’ at the Berkeley Marina dock, campers got the chance to investigate the marine life that lives under the dock. They observed several species of algae, fish, and lots of invertebrates like the skeleton shrimp and sea squirts. “I didn’t know there were these things in the water!” shared Maddie after gently feeling the texture of the sea squirts. “I see tons of little fishies!” Sebastian observed, as a school of shiny anchovies swam around the edge of a boat. “I love belly biology! This is amazing marine life! It’s so cool to see all of these living organisms!” Camper Hadi exclaimed. 

Campers always have a blast during the rocky shore investigation activity, where they explore the intertidal zone and discover the organisms that emerge from the muddy bottom of the bay. They get to gently hold small shoreline crabs and dig for beach hoppers while learning first-hand why being fast and having camouflage are good adaptations for a bay estuary invertebrate. “I remember the male crabs have a triangle apron, not an oval. This crab exoskeleton must be from a male!” Annie shared, remembering what she learned from the crab specimen investigation earlier in the week. She was correct! Female crabs use their oval shaped abdomens or aprons to hold their eggs, and males have a skinnier, V-shaped abdomen.

Bird observation walks along the bay are always so exciting because we never know what we will see in addition to amazing bird species! During one of these walks, campers got to see a leopard shark up close as a fisherman pulled one out of the water. They also saw it swim away after it was thrown back into the bay. On another walk, campers were thrilled to spot the wings of a bat ray gliding in the shallow water close to them. And of course there is no shortage of interesting birds, big and small, to watch through the binoculars and to listen to. “I get my power from listening to the birds!” Adventurers camper Vivi shared with her friends. Ian and Magnus looked through their bird guide to identify a bird sleeping in a tree. After carefully observing the bird’s beak and color they were able to identify it as the black-crowned night heron! “Look at its beak, it’s shorter than that one. It has to be this one!” they exclaimed!

Every day at KIDS for the BAY Summer Camp brings exciting discoveries, and there is always so much wonderful wildlife to discover hidden in and around our San Francisco Bay!
KIDS for the BAY