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FAQs submitted to MCB

~What is sea foam?

Did you know that sea foam is actually pulverized plankton? So what exactly does that mean? Well plankton is like an “umbrella” term for any animal or plant that drifts in the water column. If you have ever seen these biological terms: zooplankton (zoo = animal), phytoplankton (phyto = plant) that is all it simply means. If we want to get technical sea foam is made of any dissolved organic matter, including the proteins and lipids (fats) of the planktonic cells. This organic matter is exposed to the wave action from the cells being broken up by the force of the moving water. That is what the foam is made of.

So why does it get “foamy”? The dissolved organic matter from the cells are "whipped" together by high wave action to produce the foam! I thought about it and I am NOT going to go into the chemistry of fats and how their molecular properties make them good surfactants…but I will provide an analogy. The lipids act much like laundry detergent acts in the washing machine.

That’s the nitty gritty of sea foam!

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~What is the importance of the wrack line?

It is an ecologically important natural component to the beach. Specifically on our beaches, the wrack primarily consists of a particular species of seaweed; Sargassum seaweed. However, there are other components that make up the wrack line depending on season, weather, and other factors. These include seagrasses, This floating, brown seaweed can be commonly seen on our beaches after storms and heavy winds that bring it to shore. The wrack provides a food source of tiny invertebrates (e.g. amphipods, crabs, etc.) for migrating birds. These birds depend on this food source during their lengthy migrations. This is one of the reasons why mechanical raking is not a good thing.

~What are the blue jellyfish that I often see stranded on the beach?

The animal that you are likely talking about is a type of hydrozoan called the Portuguese Man-o-War (Physalia physalis).

These marine animals are not actually true jellyfish, but instead in a different class called Hydrozoa. The true jellyfishes are in the class Scyphozoa. The man-o-war is actually made up of colonies of specialized polyps--not one animal, but instead clusters of feeding, stinging, breeding and balloon polyps working together! Crazy huh? But be careful the stinging tentacles will hurt you if you touch them! There are other "blue colored jellies" that you may see stranded on the beach like By-The-Wind Sailors (Velella) and Blue Bottons (Porpita).

Portuguese Man-o-War

Blue Button

By-The-Wind Sailor

~Why have I heard that you are supposed to knock down sandcastles for sea turtle nesting season?

Sand castles are a threat to sea turtles that most people do not think about. The nesting sea turtle may think that the sand castle is a predator and go back into the ocean instead of nesting. We call this a false crawl. If a nesting turtle false crawls too many times then she will release the eggs into the ocean. The eggs are not viable and will not hatch this way.

***If you have any burning questions about anything related to coastal conservation, weird beach finds, coastal wildlife biology, or anything at all about sea turtles please submit questions to our Facebook page by direct message or posting on the FB wall. Also ask us on Twitter or send a message to us on the website***

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