Rocky Intertidal

The rocky intertidal spans the narrow band of coastline that is exposed and covered during high and low tides and makes up one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. Tidal cycles cause abiotic factors to vary greatly over the short vertical range of the intertidal reef, which creates distinct zones or bands of species. Many of the foundational theories in marine ecology were developed through experimentation in the rocky intertidal.

Our research program spans large temporal and spatial scales, but also focuses on small scale experiments in the rocky intertidal. The Coastal Biodiversity Surveys began in 2001 surveying 175 sites between Alaska and Mexico. These sites are sampled approximately once every four years. We also are a part of the MARINe network surveying sites twice a year since 1990 focusing on the key communities in the rocky intertidal with fixed plots. This allows graduate students to put our work into a larger context.

For more information about Rocky Intertidal Monitoring, please visit

Current Projects

Laura Anderson: Fucus restoration – bolstering impacted Fucus populations without depletion of source populations by transplanting reproductive tissue parts

Monica Moritsch – Sea star wasting disease: Impacts on intertidal community composition and trophic interactions

Kate Melanson:

Past Projects

Latitudinal gradients in community structure of the rocky intertidal along the temperate Pacific Coast of North America: Patterns of vertical distributions, Biotic interactions, and Geomorphology (Kristen Kusic Heady)

Community genetics and marine protected areas of the California and Baja California mainland and island array (Cynthia Hays & Kristen Kusic Heady)

Mussel bed restoration: dynamics of recovery from a disturbance (Kristin de Nesnera)

Testing the keystone hypothesis: Mytilus californianus and Pisaster ochraceus (Dawn Jech Hart)

Spatial and temporal variation in recruitment to rocky shores: Relationship to recovery rates of intertidal communities (Tish Conway-Cranos)

Adaptive phenotypic differentiation across intertidal gradient in the alga Silvetia compressa (Cynthia Hays)

Spatial variation in structure of an intertidal fish assemblage reflects daily settlement patterns (Amy Ritter)

Facilitation in the rocky intertidal and its effects on vertical zonation patterns (Mark Readdie)

Modeling the effects of an oil spill on open populations of intertidal invertebrates (Samantha Forde)