Snapshot Cal Coast Logo (outline of the state of CA with silhouette of animals and photo of intertidal seaweeds & a starfish.

Pisaster ochraceus and tidepool diversity. Pillar Point, San Mateo County, CA


Snapshot Cal Coast is an annual California statewide effort to document our coastal biodiversity! We lead a campaign that encourages people to make and share observations of plants, animals, and seaweeds along the California coast using the iNaturalist app and work with partners to hold a series of coastal bioblitzes over two weeks every summer.  We focus on intertidal zones in California State Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), but we are interested in data from any coastal influenced habitats along the California Coast, including sandy beaches, bays, wetlands, and docks.  Led by the California Academy of Sciences with support from the MPA Collaborative Network and many, many other partners, together we are creating a snapshot in time of where species are located along our coast. This work is supported by the California Ocean Protection Council

Check out what we have done together over the last three years here


Snapshot Cal Coast 2019 will be June 1-16!

What is Snapshot Cal Coast?

Sea amemones

For 1-2 weeks every year, we mobilize and organize our amazing partners up and down the State of California to make and share observations of as many coastal species as possible.

From Del Norte to San Diego and everywhere in between, we work together to build an annual snapshot of biodiversity along the California coast that is useful for scientists at local, regional, and state levels. We are building our community of observers and recorders interested in documenting California coastal biodiversity and answer targeted research questions in support of California Marine Protected Areas.

Together, we are gathering the data needed to determine species ranges now against which we can measure and monitor changes in the future.


How we are using these data?

Map of California with MPAs highlighted

Citizen science can generate biodiversity data at scales intractable for other approaches. We are building the capacity to use citizen science observations to monitor Marine Protected Areas across California.

Citizen science – the involvement of non-scientists in the production of scientific knowledge – can generate biodiversity data at spatial and temporal scales difficult to achieve by other approaches. Our team – a collaboration between the California Academy of Sciences, the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC), and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) – is building the capacity to use citizen science observations to understand and monitor biodiversity across California’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) network.

Over the last decade, the Citizen Science team at the Academy has been developing a community of naturalists – scientists and non-scientists alike – working together to document biodiversity, connecting people to their local nature and simultaneously collecting data critical to science and management. In particular, a number of ongoing Academy citizen science initiatives focus on California’s coastal ecosystems. These include Snapshot Cal Coast – an annual California statewide effort to document our coastal biodiversity – as well as more frequent but more spatially limited community bioblitzes and intertidal monitoring.

All these biodiversity observations are collected and aggregated using a common platform – iNaturalist. iNaturalist is a global network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists contributing biodiversity observations over space and time. It achieves this via a set of technological tools, which facilitate the recording, sharing and visualization of detailed biodiversity information.

The newest member of the Academy Citizen Science Team, Giovanni Rappacuiolo,  is developing innovative approaches and tools (here is an example) to make use of the Academy’s citizen science efforts and iNaturalist community-contributed observations in support of the State of California’s long-term MPA Monitoring Action Plan. Our aims are twofold. First, to provide recommendations for increasing the usefulness of ongoing citizen science data collection and exploiting iNaturalist observations to understand and monitor MPA biodiversity and to inform MPA management. Second, to generate knowledge of California coastal ecology and understand the effects of changing ocean conditions, by examining spatial and temporal variation in community diversity and its drivers, and documenting and understanding species’ range shifts.


How to get involved

People in the tidepools observing seaweed and animals with lots of fog.

It's a snap to participate in Snapshot Cal Coast 2019:

  1. Download the iNaturalist app for iPhone or Android
  2. Create an account to start making observations
  3. Follow the Snapshot Cal Coast 2019 project
  4. Find a public event near you below (coming soon!)
  5. Head to the coast on your own or with a group between June 1st-16th! Make and share observations of plants and animals you see, especially species on our most wanted list (also coming soon) and in California State Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Check out NOAA's tide table to find times for low tides near you
  6. Spread the word! Use our hashtag on social media #SnapshotCalCoast




What are we looking for this year?

Juvenile starfish

Our goal is to document as many species as possible, from as many places as possible. We are, though, specifically interested in a handful of species and groups. These 'most wanted species' are introduced species, species for which we have limited data on their ranges, species whose ranges are affected by changing oceanic conditions and habitat modification, and species that are affected by emerging diseases,

Always remember to follow the tidepooling best practices for your safety and the protection of seaweeds and animals:

  • Never remove any animals or seaweeds.
  • Take care to step on bare rock wherever possible.
  • Never move animals from place to place.
  • Never 'roll' rocks. 

Snapshot Cal Coast 2018 Most Wanted Species (2019 list is coming soon):

We have put together a "most wanted list" based on our own questions and in consultation with others in the scientific community, California Coastal Commission, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Click on a species name to see the existing observations of each species in California on iNaturalist.


Find an event near you! 2019 Coming Soon!

Here are the public events for Snapshot Cal Coast hosted by the Academy and our fantastic partners, listed by county north-to-south, then by date under each county. Follow the links to learn more.

Del Norte






San Francisco


San Mateo


Santa Cruz




San Luis Obispo


Santa Barbara




Los Angeles


Orange County


San Diego



Resources for bioblitz planners

Pink nudibranch, Okenia rosacea

Are you planning a bioblitz in your community? Check out our Bioblitz Hosting and Planning Guide for useful resources.


Join iNaturalist

Join iNaturalist

Our bioblitzes are powered by iNaturalist, our in-house, citizen science platform. It's a community-powered website and app that makes it easy to upload and share your observations in the field and to get help from other users with flora and fauna IDs.