Storm waves


Along several stretches of the Reserve’s boundary with the Pacific Ocean the cliffs are steep, crumbly and nearly impossible to climb up or down safely. A fall from any of these ledges can be disastrous. Always stay a safe distance away from bluff edges and never attempt to climb the cliffsides.

Sleeper Waves

This term refers to waves that are disproportionately larger than all other waves in a series. These dangerously large waves occur when different wave trains coincide, with their crests peaking at the same time. They are unpredictable and will surprise you, washing you from rocks or the beach into deep, cold water. Every year people lose their lives to such waves along the northern California coast.

The best way to avoid being taken by surprise is to stay alert and never turn your back on the ocean. If a large wave hits you, drop everything and hang on tight. Be certain another large wave is not about to land before you loosen your grip. Some areas of the rocky intertidal zone are particularly dangerous because of steep, exposed rocks backed by cliffs. Researchers should consult with the Reserve Manager before entering any intertidal areas.

White Sharks

These large sharks are present in the waters adjacent to the Reserve. The harbor seal haul-out in front of the laboratory and the sea lion haul-out at the southern tip of Bodega Head probably attract these top predators. Fortunately, there have not been any attacks on research divers here, but the possibility exists. If you are planning to conduct subtidal research in the Bodega Marine Life Refuge, always check with the Diving Safety Officer prior to your scheduled dive date(s). Once in the water it is best to minimize time at the surface, and always maintain close contact with your dive buddy.

Poison Oak

This highly variable plant can be irritating to the skin and is found in some locations on the Reserve. At our site it grows low to the ground, in the dunes nearest the Lab road and around rock outcroppings on grassland hillsides. The leaves are shiny green in spring, turn red in late summer, and drop from the stems during autumn. The plant’s oils, which cause the irritation, are present year-round. If poison oak is touched or brushed against, the affected area should be washed with soap and water, or cleansed with Tecnu, as soon as possible. Avoid touching your face if your hands have come in contact with the plant. Touching field clothing or equipment that has brushed against the plant can also spread the irritant.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of a western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus). Symptoms of the disease are often flu-like, including fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, fever and chills. In many, but not all, cases, a circular, bull’s-eye rash occurs within the days of the tick bite. Treatment with antibiotics during early stages of the disease is usually effective, but Lyme disease has very serious effects if left untreated.

Though the incidence of the spirochete in western black-legged ticks on the Reserve is low, the ticks are common here during winter, spring and early summer.

Precautions against tick bite include wearing light colored field clothes, so ticks are more easily seen; tucking pant legs into socks or boots; using insect repellents that contain DEET (n,n-diethyl-m-toluamide); and being alert to tick presence on your clothes or body after time spent in the field.

If you are bitten by a tick, early removal is important to minimize the risk of transmission of the spirochete from the tick to your blood. Using a pair of tweezers, grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick straight out, slowly and steadily, giving the tick time to release its grip. It is wise to save the tick for testing on the chance that symptoms may occur following the bite. If you suspect the possibility of Lyme disease, consult your physician.