A Visit To The UC Davis Marine Lab Worth The Drive

By Alyssa Green

With UC Davis in our backyard, we are fortunate here in Sacramento to have a variety of unique educational opportunities available to our children.  You probably know all about the UC Davis Arboretum and you may know about the Bohart Museum of Entomology, but you probably don’t know about the Bodega Marine Lab.   Located on the coast in Bodega Bay (approximately 100 miles west of Davis) this working marine laboratory is staffed with UC Davis researchers, instructors and students.  Here is what they do at the Marine lab.

“The University of California, Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory (BML) is dedicated to understanding environmental processes at the land-sea interface on California’s North Coast – an area known for the productivity and diversity of its marine and terrestrial ecosystems. BML’s history of research, training and outreach has contributed invaluably to our knowledge of coastal systems and the policy that protects them.”

So, in a nutshell they study the marine life along the Northern California coast, how it interacts with the environment, and how the marine life is affected by environmental changes, fishing, disease, etc.

Although this educational facility requires a couple hours of driving to actually get to, it is well worth the drive.  First of all, let me point out that Bodega Head, where the marine lab is located is one of the most beautiful spots along the coast.  So, just the drive alone is amazing.  Second, the facility is quite large and offers free tours to the public each Friday between 2 p.m and 4 p.m.

My husband and I have been wanting to take our boys to the lab for quite some time, so we decided take Friday off and make a day of it.  We arrived at the lab right at 2 p.m. and were immediately ushered into a classroom.  I was surprised to realize that among the 15 visitors in our group, my boys were the only children (however, the lab is open during the weekdays for school groups and so our docent was very kid-friendly.)

We spent the first 15 minutes of the tour learning about what the facility does and what kinds of marine life are local to the coast.  We then all trooped out to the touch pool where my boys were thrilled to see (and touch, pick up, talk to…) a variety of colorful sea stars, urchins and anemone.  Next we went inside to learn about and view real live whale bones.  And then finally we toured the lab area. Inside the lab we were able to see and learn about the marine life that was actually being studied.  Just as the boys started to get antsy, the tour ended (perfect timing!)  We then left a small donation to the facility and on our way out spent some more time at the touch pool.

Now, although not part of the lab tour, the other “must see” here is the beach!  We drove a mile or so up the road and came to the most beautiful rocky beach area I have ever seen.  The path down to the beach was a bit steep and rocky, but not too difficult, even for the kids.  There were shells aplenty laying in the sand, big rocks to climb on, and frothy waves crashing onto the beach.  The perfect place for the kiddos to run around.

While I highly recommend adding this day trip to your calendar, just a word of caution.  The Northern California coastline can be treacherous.  The water is icy cold, and the waves are large with a very strong undertow.  Swimming is not recommended (take it from someone who was once swept away in the undertow, but thankfully saved.)  Keep track of your kiddos, stay out of the water and just enjoy the beautiful view!


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