Anacapa Island

Author(s): Jim Mauch
Field Trip - Teacher's Guide
SED 695B; Fall 2005

Topics addressed

  • Navigation and map interpretation
  • Migration of California Gray Whale
  • Identification and observation of Marine mammals.
  • Identification and behavior observations of seabird species.
  • Geology of California coast.
  • The history of human activity on the Channel Islands
  • Identification and natural history of marine invertebrates. (both intertidal and planktonic)


Description of Field Trip

This field trip will begin at Ventura Harbor, where we will board the Islander, one of Island Packer's trimarans. It will take about an hour to get to the island, unless we are lucky enough to come across migrating whales.

This is a full day field trip to explore the biology and geology of a relatively undisturbed area of the California coast. During the trip, students will:

  • observe navigation maps to pinpoint the boat location, determine direction and speed, collect depth data so tha a profile of the Santa Barbara Channel.
  • search for and identify marine mammals
  • use field guides and the expertise of National Park volunteers to identify species of sea birds
  • hike on Anacapa Island as they learn about its' natural history, geology and anthropology
  • Observe a collection of marine invertebrates
  • conduct a plankton tow and observe selected species of zooplankton

The activities we will actually complete will depend upon many factors, including weather, and how much time we spend with whales.

Things to bring:

  • Good closed shoes (hiking boots or tennis shoes) .
  • Layers of clothes. You will most likely be warm on the island, cold on the boat and possibly very wet be prepared for everything.
  • Sunscreen is a must.
  • If you are sensitive to motion sickness, I recommend non-drowsy medications like Bonine (Dramamine has a non drowsy formula too), Take it about an hour before we are to launch.
  • A full stomach is best, but eat sensibly.
  • Bring snacks and a lunch.



6. Stability in an ecosystem is a balance between competing effects. As a basis for understanding this concept:



Students know biodiversity is the sum total of different kinds of organisms and is affected by alterations of habitats.



Students know how to analyze changes in an ecosystem resulting from changes in climate , human activity , introduction of nonnative species, or changes in population size.



Students know how fluctuations in population size in an ecosystem are determined by the relative rates of birth, immigration, emigration, and death.



Students know a vital part of an ecosystem is the stability of its producers and decomposers.



Students know at each link in a food web some energy is stored in newly made structures but much energy is dissipated into the environment as heat. This dissipation may be represented in an energy pyramid

Dynamic Earth Processes

3. Plate tectonics operating over geologic time has changed the patterns of land, sea, and mountains on Earth's surface. As a basis for understanding this concept:



Students know features of the ocean floor (magnetic patterns, age, and sea floor topography) provide evidence of plate tectonics .



Students know the principal structures that form at the three different kinds of plate boundaries.



Students know how to explain the properties of rocks based on the physical and chemical conditions in which they formed, including plate tectonic processes .

California Geology

9. The geology of California underlies the state's wealth of natural resources as well as its natural hazards. As a basis for understanding this concept:



Students know the resources of major economic importance in California and their relation to California 's geology.



Students know the principal natural hazards in different California regions and the geologic basis of those hazards.




Study Guide:

A log booklet will be provided for you to write all of your notes and observations. this is a compressed copy of its contents.

Anacapa Field Observation

General observations:

  • Water visibility and temperature:
    • Estimate the water visibility in the marina by observing a submerged rock or piling.
    • When we get to the island, we will measure the visibility again. What is the tool used to measure the visibility?
    • What was the visibility?
    • Give possible reasons for the difference you see.
    • What will we use to measure the water temperature?
    • What is the temperature on the surface?
    • What is the temperature at 10feet?
    • What is the temperature at 30feet?
    • Give reasons for any water temperature differences you see.
  • Navigation
    • At your assigned time, use the navigation screen to find the folowing:
      • Boat position _____________latitude and _____________longitude
      • depth________________
      • compass direction _____________________
    • Use the charts to find the following:
      • Maximum water depth along our course ______________
      • position of ventura marina _______________lat. and _______________ long.
  • Marine mammals
    • Use field guides and the help of the crew to identify the species of marine mammals seen. Make observations of thier behavior.
  • Sea Birds
    • Make a list of the species of sea birds you have observed.
    • Write a log of observations made on the behaviors of these birds.
  • Island Geology
    • Describe the origins of the channel islands. How were they formed?
    • What evidence is there that Anacapa Island may/may not be an extension of the Santa Monica Mountain Range?
  • Island History
    • Make note of evidence for ancient human activity on the island.
    • What event took place which caused the push to build a lighthouse on the island? When did this take place?
    • What is the mission of the Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary?
  • Island Plants and Animals
    • Make drawings and observations of two native plants or animals that you observe on the island.
    • Why is iceplant a problem on the island? Why is it here? What is being done about it?
    • What does endemic mean?
    • Name and describe some animals endemic to the Channel Islands.
  • Observations of diver specimens or plankton:
    • On the remaining pages, describe several of the organisms that you observed, and how they are adapted for food getting, locomotion, avoiding predators, etc. Draw illustrations of the organisms also.




This photograph shows that anacapa is actually three islands. The two sections to the west are closed to visitors as they are important habitat to sea birds. We will actually be hiking on the eastern segment (on the right of the photo.
The islander has several display screens for you to use to collect navigation data. Be sure to select a time with your instructor, so that your data can be used to plot our course.
As we cruise down the coast of Anacapa, be sure to observe the behaviors of the Brown Pelicans and the gulls. You are likely to see quite a show.
When we arrive, we will disembark from the bow to a small landing. Be sure you have all of your things with you. The boat does not stay here.
Before our lunch and hike, we will get a little exercise climbing the many steps up to the plateau on the top of the island.
A short walk to the visitor center, where we will eat lunch and meet our guide.
The interpreter o our hike will either be a volunteer from the National Park Service, or one of Island Packers' staff. We will go on a short walk around the island with many stops. Be sure to look for important information to add to your field log.
Description / questions
Can you identify the species of gulls you see? Ask your instructor for field guides and look closely for distinguishing marks and colors on the feet and beak.
Take the time to watch the behaviors of the animals you see.
Why is the presence of so many Brown Pelicans on Anacapa considered a remarkable thing? What has put them on the brink of extinction and continues to threaten them today?
All of the little white specks on this picture are birds. They play an important role in the ecology of the islands. Describe their role in the ecology of the marine environment surrounding the island.
What events triggered the construction of a lighthouse on the island? What other evidence of human activity on the island do you see? What is the estimated population size of Chumash on the Channel Islands prior to contact with Europeans?
Listen closely as your guide describes native plants on the island.
The taller, brown plants in the background of this picture are giant coreopsis. They will most likely look much different when you see them.
What is this plant? Is this native to the island? What are the reasons for its presence here? What programs are under way involving this plant?
After our tour of the island, we will be met on the dock by some of the crew who will have some samples of the marine invertebrates inhabiting these waters. Have your log book ready. You will learn a great deal about their niche in this ecosystem. Later, after we board, we will collect a plankton sample. You will have the opportunity to observe and identify species fron that sample.
On the way home, keep your eyes open. there is till plenty of time to see something new.

References & Links:

Island Packers

Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary