The Tidepool Sculpin or Will I Survive as a “Cutesy Theme” Innept Naturalist

In class last night we were each handed a small note card. On the front of mine was a drawing of a Tidepool Sculpin and on the back was a variety of information about the Sculpin. Our assignment was to take our topical card – in my case the Tidepool Sculpin and create a theme based on some part of the information provided. Oh – did I mention your theme should be catchy? And there in was my problem. How would I ever come up with a catchy theme? I am not a catchy theme kind of person – trying to become one is like trying to climb a mountain on only my hands. All I could come up with was something to do with the Sculpin’s place in the food chain – how it was both predator and pray. But that isn’t catchy or the least bit creative. When I got home I shared my dilemma with my husband and immediately he tossed out a catchy, and yes, punny theme. “Tidepool dinners and diners” or something to that effect. I started to cry. Honestly, I did. I felt even more inadequate now. But there is a difference between my husband and I. He is always full of off hand silly puns which I spend a good deal of time rolling my eyes at or groaning over. For him – it comes naturally, for me…

However, I have had an experience concerning the Tidepool Sculpin that left a lasting impression on me. It was the summer of my sixth year and we were living in Lincoln City, on the Oregon coast. We had spent a day down on the beach, and I had been knee deep in the tide pools or leaning over reaching in as far as I could. This was the day I first recall really discovering the Tidepool Sculpin. (This is also the day I lost my purple jacket to the tide – but that’s a different story.) At the time I didn’t know that was what it was called. To me it was this incredibly interesting little fish that one moment wasn’t there and then was revealed suddenly by its quick darting across the tide pools sandy bottom with the passing of a shadow over the pool or the sudden appearance of a six year olds foot in its home. As quickly as it appeared it again disappeared. And now it was a puzzle, a game. I was determined to find it again and even more determined to be able to see it even when it wasn’t darting from one spot to the other. I wanted to uncover its secret. I am sure I spent any number of hours doing just that – completely unfazed by the freezing cold northern pacific ocean waters I was standing in. Towards the end of the day, I had become so fond of my new friend that I didn’t care to part company. Since I was not likely to be allowed to live indefinitely in a tide pool on the beach, I got a cup from our picnic basket and somehow managed to catch my own little Tidepool Sculpin. It went home with me, and although I understood that it needed salt water – beyond that I had no knowledge of what this critter needed to survive. The result is probably obvious by now. My sculpin died. Somehow, even then, I knew that it had died because of me. That stuck with me. I no longer took tide pool creatures out of their homes, because I didn’t want anymore to go the way of that sculpin.

Years later I learned much more about the Tidepool Sculpin’s habitat. It needed the constant changing of waters that were provided by tide pools and with that change of water, a new supply of food. It would then be able to produce more sculpins, but only under the circumstances provided in the unique tide pool habitat. A cup – even of salt water – was no home for a sculpin or any other wild creature either. To live and thrive they needed to stay where they were or be provided a place of equal quality by those who had the means and training to do so – such as a well ran Aquarium.

I learned to just appreciate these and other creatures in their proper habitat. It is far more pleasant than having a new found friend die at your own hands. So, all though, I may not be able to come up with some cutesy theme to lead a program about the Tidepool Sculpin, I hope somehow I will still be an effective interpreter, to be able to communicate what I learned in a way that will successfully help others discover the wonders of the varied habitats around them and those creatures that call those habitats home. And to leave them there for others to enjoy in the future.

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