MARINe Protocols  

MARINe Core Surveys follow a standardized protocol which is described in detail in the MARINe Protocol Handbook.  MARINe is also producing  videos of the field sampling protocols for archival and training purposes.

The Core Survey design consists of several required elements:


Five replicate photographs of fixed plots marked by bolts on three corners are collected for selected targeted species.

A judgment is made to determine if the species is represented in sufficient numbers at the site to warrant monitoring. Photoplots are laid out preferably in areas of concentrated occurrence. Most teams score their photos in the lab (identifying to species under 100 evenly spaces points) though some teams opt for field scoring.

Species commonly monitored with photoplots include California mussels Mytilus californianus, barnacles Pollicipes polymerus, Tetraclita rubescens, Chthamalus dalli/fissus/Balanus glandula, the turfweed Endocladia muricata, the rockweeds Silvetia compressa, Hesperophycus californicus, and colonial sea anemones Anthopleura elegantissima/sola.

Irregular plots

Black abalone Haliotis cracherodii and seastars Pisaster ochraceus are counted and measured in three replicate fixed irregular plots. 

Color of seastars (orange or purple) is also noted. Katharina tunicata is counted at northern sites.

Circular plots

Owl limpets, Lottia gigantea, are counted and measured in a 1 meter radius circular plot.


Surfgrass, Phyllospadix scouleri/torreyi, and feather boa kelp, Egregia menziesii, are monitored using a point intercept method on each of three replicate 10 meter transects.

Hedophyllum sessile (sea cabbage) is also monitored at northern sites.

Panoramic Photographs

Eight photos are taken in each of two circles at fixed locations at each site to form panoramas.

This places the fixed plots in context with the changes occurring at the site as a whole.

Reconnaissance Survey

A standardized check sheet noting changes at the site from natural and anthropogenic disturbances, along with a datasheet to note the abundance, recruitment and condition of 60 species is completed at each site visit.


Optional elements:
Barnacle recruitment

Several teams include protocols to follow recruitment. Counts of small individuals are taken using magnification from small plates bolted near the fixed plots and from small squares of substrate.

Motile Invertebrates

Many teams include a motile invertebrate count of photoplots to help explain the changes seen in the photoplot data. Crabs, limpets, large and small snails and chitons are subsampled or counted in the plots.