This has been the first time that I have had an opportunity to do field work in the rocky intertidal zone. The rocks are slippery and jagged, and the algae grow in cracks and crevices plus forms a slick mat across the shore. Though it is a tough area to sample, I love it! At first, I was very overwhelmed and afraid to fall, however as I got more comfortable I learned that the secret is to use everything you have to stay on your feet- including crawling, grabbing tree branches, and scooting across the site on your bottom! Every site presents challenges, whether it be that the lichen zone is four meters above my head or that a huge boulder falls in the middle of my transect. When a site is completed, I have great feelings of triumph. My project is to look at the percent cover of the various intertidal algae and lichen species at the ten historical monitoring sites scattered around the lough. Every day, I start about an hour before low tide. I row to the site I have in mind and find the yellow historical marker that indicates the beginning of the sampling site. It is painted on a rock at each of the ten sites. After I have found it (and sometimes this can be the hardest part because the yellow lichen is the exact same color as the painted square), I measure the ranges of the lichen and algae from above the center of the yellow square and to the range below it. Then, I tie a transect line to two bricks (one at 0 meters and one at 10.5 meters) stretch it across the shore to cut the zone of the first species I look at, Verrucaria maura, in half. Verrucaria maura is a type of lichen that is black in color and very abundant throughout the lough. It has a large range and almost completely covers the intertidal rocks. In my notebook, I have a series of 5 random numbers that are pre-assigned to each species per each site that indicate where I should measure the percent cover from according to the transect. Say that the first number is 1.2, I scramble across the rocky shore to the 1.2 meter mark on the transect and place a quadrat through the center of the line. The quadrat has 25 squares, each representing 4% of the entire box. This makes it easy to visually calculate the percent that the lichen covers because I look within each individual square. For example if the lichen is covering the space in about half of the square, I add two to the total. I move my eyes across the quadrat by row, adding up each value as I go along. This is the method that I use for the remaining four random numbers. I then move on to the next species, which is white lichen called Ochrolechia parella. The transect line is moved slightly lower to the middle of its zone, and the process is repeated. The species that I sample for are as follows: Verrucaria maura, Ochrolechia parella, Caloplaca microthallina, Ramularia, Pelvetia canaliculata, Fucus spiralis, Ascophyllum nodosum, Fucus vesiculosis, Fucus serratus, and Himanthalia elongata. Some of the sites take a half hour if the shore is flat and easy to navigate, however some of the sites can take up to two hours. My first problematic site was at the Rookery Nook. The yellow squares were painted on a cliff! I was clinging onto the rock with one arm with my feet in two footholds I found on the wall and my other arm was holding the quadrat and my brain was doing the mental math to calculate the percent cover all the while trying not to fall into the freezing water below. As usual (for everyone that knows me this will not be a surprise), I was outfitted in my shorts and 3 layers of jackets! The strategy of clinging for life on the rocks was effective for the first 4 meters (about where I am standing in the photograph). After that, the plan needed to be revised, as there were not any footholds on the wall for the rest of the 6 meters left to sample. The only way to finish sampling was from the tender (a small boat). Ryan would hold onto the wall to steady the boat while I stood up on the edge of the inflatable tender, holding up my quadrats and recording the percentages. It was an effective process: the boat did not flip over, no one fell into the water, and neither of us fell off the cliff!!! Now that the excitement of spread-eagling a cliff has been introduced, Ryan and I are looking forward to tackling the challenges presented at the rest of the sites (such as South 4)! The cliffs are no longer intimidating, they are inspiring!