A new Internet webcam focuses on a swaying kelp forest at Anacapa Island and marine life that call it home. The fish, seals and lobsters join other terrestrial stars of webcams at Channel Islands National Park, like bald eagles already watched closely by countless fans around the globe.
Underwater webcams were developed by a Boulder, Colo.-based nonprofit group called Teens4Oceans, which inspires future advocates for underwater habitat protection through education and research opportunities.
Teens4Oceans Executive Director Trevor Mendelow says they’ve deployed webcams in the Caribbean Sea and Florida, but the one at Anacapa is their first on the West Coast.
“What we really hope is that people begin to understand the diversity of marine systems and how important they are to the larger marine ecosystems in which they reside,” says Mendelow. “A lot of people spend their whole life looking out at the sea, but don’t really understand what they’re looking at.”
Mendelow says the Anacapa webcam is also their first focusing on a kelp forest swaying hypnotically back and forth, as well as California sea lions and bright orange garibaldi fish swimming by.
“It’s really different from anything we’ve seen. The movement of the kelp we’ve had an incredible response to. It certainly lends a different degree of live feel to the camera,” says Mendelow. “And there are also a very large number of species of fish and other invertebrates that are found around this little island.”
Scuba divers from the charity recently put some final touches on the new webcam, including a remote-controlled device that scrapes the screen to keep the image clear.
Sixteen-year-old Denver, Colo., resident Annalise Downey is a Teens4Oceans ambassador who donned scuba gear to work on the webcam. She hopes it encourages California students to organize new chapters through their schools or local scuba shops, and explore careers in ocean conservation.
“I hope that people really are inspired like I was about everything that’s in the ocean, all the cool things,” says Downey. “I hope they’re really inspired to take action themselves. For me in Colorado, even though we have no ocean, I still love the ocean.”
The underwater webcam and others on the islands are a collaborative effort between numerous groups, including the National Park Service, the Channel Islands Park Foundation and the Ventura County Office of Education, that maintains equipment capable of transmitting live images to the mainland.
The webcam will enhance the Channel Islands Live educational program, which also allows students across the country to interact with scuba-diving Park Rangers via teleconferencing computer software, and ask them questions about creatures like sea urchins displayed for a video camera.
Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Russell Galipeau says the new webcam should help expose people to natural resources that can be challenging to access, since visiting the islands requires a boat or airplane trip, and diving equipment is needed to view the underwater environment.
“One of our biggest goals here is to try and connect the park to the people. We know how difficult it is to get out to the Channel Islands, so the next best thing to do is bring the park to the people, using technology,” says Galipeau.
Galipeau is happy about the collaborative efforts of all the groups, including Teens4Oceans, that made the project possible. “All those wonders of the ocean are hidden to most of us, and they’re going to bring it to the people,” says Galipeau. “I think that’s great. It’s what we do, and now we see youth doing it.”