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bear1-770A mother brown bear (Ursus arctos) and her young cubs comb the shoreline of Geographic Harbor in Katmai National State Park during low tide. Brown bears rule the nearly 400 miles of rugged coastline of this national park situated at the base of the Alaska Peninsula. It has been federally protected since 1918 and became a national park in 1980. This cub is learning to dig for clams along the shoreline of the Arctic harbor at low tide. Certain bears utilize this foraging habitat by hunting for mussels, isopods, barnacles, marine worms (polychaetes and peanut worms), and small intertidal fishes (blennies and sand lances). These organisms are high in digestible protein and, therefore, the bears will not have to spend much time eating vegetation in order to meet their daily energy needs. The intertidal flats are great for finding clams, but also safer for young cubs because dangerous adult males are rarely seen in these habitats.

Geographic Harbor is located in the southwest base of the Alaskan Peninsula, and is immediately adjacent to Amalik Bay. This harbor receives its heavy tide fluctuations directly from the Shelikof Strait, and by doing so, much of the harbor coast becomes exposed for foraging brown bears during low tide. The Alaska Current and the Alaska Coastal Current are the closest ocean currents that affect this shoreline, and allow this tidal flat to be enriched with a multitude of invertebrates and small fish.

(Photographs by Jim Mahoney, Wildlife Photographer, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA).

eagle2-770An American Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) prepares for a graceful landing atop its nest located off the coast of Katmai National Park in Alaska. The massive nests are tactically used and built upon, year after year, by these majestic birds of prey, with both the male and female adult eagles sharing in the parental duties of raising and feeding their young. This particular nest is approximately two meters in diameter and is set high atop a singular rock stack that is separated from the mainland; thereby, making it a true safe-haven for the eagle chicks.

These coastal cliffs represent part of the Shelikof Strait seacoast, which is a rugged, diversified area of narrow-to-wide bays, long and narrow-to-wide beaches, and intricate coves. Steep cliffs rising from the bays are common along the coastline, with rivers cascading down steep canyons and waterfalls plunging onto ocean beaches. Deep blue water, pale bluff pumice, and the green of alder patches and grasslands are typical along this coastline. This coastal nest location not only protects the chicks from mainland predators, but provides a spectacular look-out point for fish in nearby Kukak Bay. The parents will also use the thermal convection currents and high winds of the Shelikof Strait to soar and patrol their nesting territory.

(Photographs by Jim Mahoney, Wildlife Photographer, Associated Press, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA).

penguin1-770During the winter months in Antarctica, the continent will double in size. This is because the frozen surface of the Ross Sea creates a solid layer of what is known as pack ice. Emperor Penguins, which are endemic to Antarctica, will have a harder time reaching food sources because of the vast amount of pack ice that goes on for miles beyond their nesting area. The Emperor Penguins in the top photograph were in a celebratory state after a Russian icebreaker ship had broken through the miles of pack ice, providing them with a gigantic shortcut to their oceanic food. These penguins can swim to depths well over 1000 feet at a rate of around 5 mph. After exiting the ocean, the penguins will toboggan (slide on their bellies) and then stand to walk with teetering steps.

(Photograph taken in November 2008 by James W. Mahoney, Jr., West Palm Beach, Florida.)

islacarmen-770The extreme southeast tip of Isla Carmen in the Gulf of California features a pristine, white-sand beach under protection within the Loreto Marine Park, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Sand deposited on this 150-m long beach is highly enriched (>80%) in coarse debris derived from wave-crushed rhodoliths (unattached coralline red algae). The Pleistocene limestone deposit in the foreground also is composed of massive rhodolith debris that includes rare whole rhodoliths (concentric growth of coralline red algae in spherical mode up to several centimeters in diameter). Both the limestone formation and the modern beach are underlain by basement rocks (Miocene andesite), which crop out as a protective headland at the far end of the beach. Living rhodoliths, naturally pink in color (Rhodophyta), form a large carbonate bank covering 194 hectares (480 acres) offshore this beach.

(Photograph by Markes E. Johnson, Department of Geosciences, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, U.S.A.).

vancouver-770This coastal seaport city is the hub of Greater Vancouver. With over 2.3 million residents, it is the third most populous metropolitan area in the country (after Toronto and Montreal), and the most populous in Western Canada. The city proper has more than 640,000 people, making it the eighth largest in Canada, and the most densely populated Canadian city of over 25,000 residents, with 5,039 people per km2 in 2006. Port Metro Vancouver is the busiest and largest in Canada, as well as the fourth largest port (by tonnage) in North America.

The steps in the foreground lead up to Canada Place and the Pan Pacific Hotel. The cruise terminal here is the main point of departure for Alaska with more than one million passengers passing through each year. Reclaimed in the 1970s and 1980s, the city and foreshore exploded upwards after Expo 86 with high-rise apartment buildings and other development.

The redeveloped shore is a delightful coastal urban park that features walkways, bike paths, scenic overlooks to Coal Harbor, and many rest stops. The boardwalk along the seawall follows the shore to Stanley Park, one of the world's great coastal urban parks. The seaplane harbor on the right hand side of the image is a busy place. Seaplane companies operate frequent scheduled service from the downtown Vancouver harbor direct to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, on Vancouver Island and other coastal destinations.

As seen in this image, the coastal urban landscape is a pleasing sight and with all of the waterside amenities it is easy to understand why Vancouver has ranked highly in worldwide "livable city" rankings for more than a decade. In fact, Vancouver is the first city to rank among the top-ten of the world's most livable cities for five straight years.

(Photograph by Charlie Finkl, Coastal Education & Research Foundation, August 2011).

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