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Marine Life Guides; Essential Tools For Teaching and Fun

Living near the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean, teachers, students and the public-at-large have access to an enriching outdoor classroom. To truly enjoy and learn about the areas’ fascinating wildlife, however, an easy-to-use field guide is essential.

At MSI we incorporate age-appropriate field guides, identification keys, and dichotomous keys into our programs. Students use these guides to identify fish, invertebrates, plankton, plants and more. Below, I’ve listed a few user-friendly guides I’ve found helpful. I hope these books help you get the most out of your class’s Marine Science Institute program or your visit to the San Francisco Bay or Pacific Ocean.

Fylling’s Illustrated Guide to Pacific Coast Tide Pools by Marni Fylling.

This beautifully illustrated book is one of my favorites. The illustrations are truly works of art. The publisher, Heyday Books in Berkeley, California, describe the field guide as having “delightfully old-fashioned illustrations.” But make no mistake, the illustrations are educational, too. According to the book’s jacket, this guide “describes the most common species of flora and fauna in the Pacific intertidal zone: their size, zonation, distinguishing features, and their fascinating (if sometimes gruesome) habits. Large color illustrations make identification easy, and tips for viewing help you explore the abundance that tide pools have to offer.”

The publisher’s product description continues saying, “This scientifically accurate yet utterly charming field guide to the Pacific coast intertidal zone introduces readers to a world populated by spectacular wildlife: 150-year-old giant green anemones that paralyze their prey with their petal-like tentacles; sunflower sea stars that traverse the tide pool floor on twenty-four limbs; orange-tipped, opalescent sea slugs that dabble in cannibalism; and much, much more.” This book’s small size makes it an easy take-along book.

To read more about the book and author, please visit Heyday Books by clicking here.

Seashore of Northern & Central California by Ian Sheldon

This Lone Pine Field Guide, Seashore of Northern & Central California by Ian Sheldon, is a well-worn book on my office shelf. Covering commonly seen marine life from mammals and fishes to algae and seaweed, it is easy-to-use and child friendly. Each page features a large color illustration, detailed text and convenient, quick-fact box with pertinent information such as: other name, range, zone, habitats, size, and more. It is my go-to book for identification.

The publisher’s book description says, “This pocket-sized illustrated guide helps unlock the mysteries of the diverse and abundant life of the northern and central California coastline. Artist and naturalist Ian Sheldon accurately and colorfully portrays 150 species of aquatic life. Color-coded tabs help with quick identification.”

To read more about the book and author, please visit the Lone Tree Publishing website by clicking here.

The information contained within each book brings the wildlife and area alive for the reader. I hope you find these guides as enjoyable and invaluable as I have. Please remember, if purchasing these books from Amazon, please select the Marine Science Institute as your AmazonSmile nonprofit. Thank you.


Heyday in California. Fylling’s Illustrated Guide to Pacific Coast Tide Pools. Retrieved from

Lone Pine Publishing. Seashore of Northern and Central California by Ian Sheldon. Retrieved from

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