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The Secret Life of Larval Fish: A Geocaching Adventure

Visit UC Santa Cruz's Coastal Science Campus to embark on a real-life treasure hunt that's all about baby fish!  

Looking to get a head start or visiting when the Seymour Center is closed? Print out your geocaching passport here.

In fall of 2016, I began a collaboration with the Seymour Marine Discovery Center in Santa Cruz, CA. We developed a geocaching activity that would serve to educate visitors and the public about larval fish, a very understudied period of the fish life cycle.

What is geocaching?  Geocaching is a GPS-based scavenger hunt in which participants search for hidden containers. All containers contain a log that visitors sign, but can vary hugely in size and shape. The larger containers sometimes contain objects. In this series, the caches contain unique info cards on some aspect of larval fish. Geocaching offers a unique form of long-term, inquiry-based learning that is accessible to all ages.

Why larval fish?  In my experience, many people are unaware that fish have a larval stage that looks entirely different from the adult form. This period of the fish's life is a critical stage, and the majority of larvae will not make it to adulthood. Fish have evolved a number of physical and behavioral adaptations to overcome challenges that come with being a tiny fish in a big ocean.


How do I play?  Five geocaches are hidden around UCSC's Coastal Science Campus, located at 115 McAllister Way. An associated "geocaching passport" can be picked up at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center or printed out here. A specific question about larval fish is associated with each cache and listed on the passport. To find the caches, download any geocaching app on your smartphone, borrow a pre-loaded GPS from the Seymour Center, or get a "cheat sheet" with exact directions to each cache. The information needed to answer the cache is inside the container, along with a stamp/stamp pad to mark the passport. Visitors with a completed passport can receive a commemorative coin at the Seymour Center!

Media coverage: Gate to Adventures blog


"So impressed with this series. We got the passport and stamped each cache and answered questions. Then we got our prize. We had so much fun." - Kreyn49, 7/12/2018

"Thanks for placing these and making it about learning." - Tootsie.22, 5/7/2018

"We hadn’t thought about the many different ways fish work to ensure the survival of their genes until today. Thanks for another informative fishy cache!" - Fluffy Bunnies, 4/14/2018

Funded by the Western Division of the American Fisheries Society.

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