For the past two years, Crystal Cove Conservancy has partnered with the Orange County Marine Protected Area Council, Crystal Cove State Park, and Orange Coast College’s Marine Biology Honor Society to monitor owl limpets at two tidepool sites in Crystal Cove State Park.

Now, we want to know whether the data shows any differences between these two owl limpet populations!

For teachers:  If you are a teacher and would like to run this project with your science or math class, feel free to use this Lesson Guide and these Student Notebook Pages!

We would like to know who is taking part in the program! Please fill out this participation form if you have used any of the challenges.

Background on the Owl Limpet Monitoring Project

Owl limpets (Lottia gigantia) are a type of sea snail that play an important role in tidepool ecology.  They are also a good indicator of human impact on tidepools because larger owl limpets are frequently collected.  Owl limpets grow slowly and usually stay in about the same place, making them easy to monitor over time.

OCC students have been monitoring owl limpets at two tidepool sites over the past two years.  The first site, located near the Crystal Cove Historic District, is considered a high-traffic site because it is frequently visited by lots of people.  The second site, located near an area of the park called Little Treasure Cove, can only be visited at very low tides, making it a low-traffic site.  We want to know whether there are differences in the owl limpet populations at the high-traffic site and the low-traffic site so that we can assess whether visitors are having a negative impact on owl limpets or whether the park’s enforcement and education efforts are working effectively.

How You Can Help!

That’s where you come in!  We need your help analyzing our data set and creating visualizations and graphs that show whether or not there are differences in the number and/or size of owl limpets at the two locations.

To help us, you will need to:

  1. Learn more about owl limpets by watching and reading through the background materials below.
  2. Make a hypothesis on whether you think there will be differences between the two owl limpet populations.
  3. Virtually collect owl limpet data with Kaitlin.
  4. Use Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel to analyze and graph the data.
  5. Share your findings back with us!
  6. Reflect on your experience.

Thank you in advance for your help!  We’re really excited to see what you find.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us by emailing

Step 1:  Learn more about owl limpets.

Start by watching and listening to the Introduction to Owl Limpets & the Monitoring Project slideshow with Kaitlin on Voicethread which will introduce you to the project and the two monitoring sites.

If you want more information on owl limpets, check out these additional resources:

Step 2:  Develop a hypothesis.

Once you’ve looked through the background materials, think about our two monitoring questions.

  • Monitoring Question (1):  If we compare the owl limpet populations at a high-traffic site and a low-traffic site in Crystal Cove State Park, will there be a difference in the number of owl limpets at the two sites?
  • Monitoring Question (2): If we compare the owl limpet populations at a high-traffic site and a low-traffic site in Crystal Cove State Park, will there be a difference in the size of owl limpets at the two sites?

What do you predict you’ll find when you analyze the owl limpet data set?  Make a hypothesis and share your initial ideas with us by completing this Google Form.

Step 3:  Virtually collect data.

Now that you have developed your hypotheses, take a virtual trip to the tidepools with Kaitlin to collect some data on owl limpets.  Watch the Data Collection Video with Kaitlin and record your observations on the size and number of owl limpets in this google form. here!

Step 4:  Analyze the data.

The raw data is available to download from Google Drive or from our website.  If you want to use Google Sheets, before making changes, you will need to open the file and make a copy to save in your own Google Drive folder.

For some suggestions on how to think about analyzing the data, please check out the Data Analysis Crash Course slideshow on Voicethread!

Do you have questions about the data that you want answered by Crystal Cove Conservancy staff members or scientists? Submit any questions you or your classmates have to this Padlet Question Board.

Step 5:  Share your findings!

We want to know what you found!  Did you notice any differences in owl limpet populations at the high-traffic site and the low-traffic site?

Please share your findings through Google Forms here!  As part of your conclusions, it would be really helpful to get a copy of any graphs or other data visualizations that you created so that we can share them with Crystal Cove State Park’s environmental scientists.

Would you like to communicate with other students who analyzed the data to talk more about it?  Contribute your thoughts, comments, or questions about the data to the Padlet Question Board and see what other people are thinking about the data, too.

Step 6:  Reflect on owl limpet monitoring.

It’s important for scientists to take some time to reflect on how their thinking has changed. Watch This Video of Kaitlin to help you start reflecting on your experiences with owl limpet monitoring and answer the following reflection questions.

  1. What did you do during this environmental challenge?
  2. What did you learn?  How did your thinking change?
  3. Do you think it is important to protect the tidepools at Crystal Cove State Park? Why or why not?
  4. Did you enjoy analyzing data and sharing your findings to help protect the tidepools?  What did or didn’t you like about the experience?
  5. Would you like to learn more about the tidepool ecosystem or how scientists monitor populations there?  If so, what topics interest you?  Do you have ideas of how you could learn more about them?

Are you interested in getting involved in other community science activities? Explore how to contribute to projects at these websites.

Did you enjoy doing the work of a marine scientist?  Would you like to learn more about marine careers?  Explore career options by reading interviews with people who have a wide range of interests that are connected to the ocean at

Thank you for your help!  If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us by emailing

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