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2024 TAP Season at Cape Falcon Begins in June

Summer is upon us, which means one important thing for NCLC’s Marine Program: The Tidepool Ambassador Program (TAP) will soon be back!

During most weekends from June to September, volunteer tidepool ambassadors will be at Short Sand Beach—adjacent to Cape Falcon Marine Reserve—to connect with beach-goers and share information about proper tidepool etiquette and the rich biodiversity within these sensitive ecosystems.

Leading the program this summer is Michelle Schwegmann, the new TAP Coordinator. She’ll be supported not only by Marine Program Coordinator Angela Whitlock, but also NCLC’s new seasonal Land and Sea Stewardship Assistant, Mylasia Miklas, who started in May.

Michelle, who moved to the coast fulltime in 2023, volunteered with NCLC’s program last summer. She and Mylasia also have worked as tidepool interpreters with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) in Cannon Beach.

To prepare for the upcoming TAP season, NCLC held a training in partnership with HRAP at Haystack Rock on May 10. Another training was held May 25 at Short Sand Beach.

What is the Tidepool Ambassador Program?

The Tidepool Ambassador Program was introduced in 2021 as a joint effort between the “friends of” groups for Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve, and the Cape Perpetua Collaborative. NCLC adopted the Cape Falcon Marine Reserve program from the “friends of” group in 2022 and has continued TAP for each subsequent season.

2024 TAP Coordinator Michelle Schwegmann (front) with TAP volunteers at a training May 25 at Short Sand Beach.

Last summer, TAP leaders and volunteers were at Short Sand Beach a total of 25 shifts, representing more than 80 hours. They interacted with approximately 1,350 visitors.

Looking ahead to this summer, Michelle is excited about several parts of the program: interacting with visitors, continuing to grow her own knowledge, working with volunteers, and getting to track the marine life they observe throughout the weeks. “I’m excited, for each shift, to see what we find, because every single day, it’s different,” she says.

Standing ‘On the Bottom of the Ocean’

As Michelle explains, “I’ve always loved tidepools, seeing what was there, but I didn’t ever know what it was. I didn’t have any training.”

“I had all this curiosity and would visit and talk with interpreters,” she adds.

Since 2017, she’s had a home in both Portland and the North Coast, splitting her time between the two. She remembers visiting Cape Falcon Marine Reserve in 2022 and speaking with a tidepool ambassador. When she heard about the training and opportunity to volunteer last year, she says, “It just sounded like a dream.”

“I had just moved fulltime to the coast and was wanting to follow the things I loved,” she says.

She also began working with HRAP and learned “so much” through both programs.

Her goal as a tidepool ambassador is to educate, enlighten, engage and inspire visitors to view and experience the beach in a new way. People tend to be human-centric, so it’s important to frame the information in a way that resonates with them and draws parallels to what they already know.

One way Michelle has heard the tidepool environment described is being “on the bottom of the ocean.” Depending on where exactly someone is standing, “most of the time it will be under the water,” because of the dramatically shifting tides. “You might just be fortunate enough to be here during a tide that opens up the ocean for you,” she says.

NCLC’s new seasonal Land and Sea Stewardship Assistant Mylasia Miklas (left) will support the 2024 TAP season.

‘Such a Different World’

While volunteering last year, Michelle discovered that Short Sand Beach typically draws a different crowd than at Haystack Rock, due in part to proximity and accessibility. “You have to intend to go there a little more than Haystack Rock,” which is in Cannon Beach proper, right off the street, and a few minutes from lodging for many visitors.

In her experience, many visitors to Short Sand are into outdoor recreation and the natural world.

“For them to be able to stop and learn something new or see their beach in a new light with us is so cool,” she says.

You might just be fortunate enough to be here during a tide that opens up the ocean for you.

Michelle Schwegmann, TAP Coordinator

One of her personal favorite marine creatures are barnacles—“I’m a big fan of any underdog,” she says. Barnacles are unassuming, and some of them extremely small; they often get mistaken for rocks. As a result, people will unthinkingly step on and crack them. She enjoys being able to point them out to visitors.

“You really can show people that something that doesn’t even look like an animal—it looks like a shell—is actually a living creature,” she says.

She’s also a big fan of the vast array of colors and textures within the tidepools.

“I love how it’s such a different world and how delicate it is, but also how hardy it is. It holds both of those things,” she says.

(The 2024 TAP season at Cape Falcon Marine Reserve is funded in part by the Oregon Coast Visitors Association)


  • By Rachelle
    By Rachelle @

    Hi there, I have a big concern about the many people coming to look at the tide pools. I was at short Sands and Oceanside during these last negative low tide days and saw a lot of kids and adults climbing on top of rocks that had sea stars and sea anemones didn’t look like anyone was telling them to be careful not to crush any live creatures !! I was kind of horrified to see this..

    • By Katherine Lacaze
      By Katherine Lacaze @

      Thank you for voicing your thoughts and concerns! We share those same concerns. There is a lot of work to be done in terms of spreading awareness about the tidepool ecosystems along the Oregon Coast and the marine life within them. Some people are ignorant or unknowing, as they might be unfamiliar with the ocean environment; others may simply not care, unfortunately. That’s what TAP is designed for: Having ambassadors out there during times when the beach is likely to be populated and initiating educational and enlightening interactions with them. It would be wonderful to see Tidepool Ambassador Programs (or similar programs) in Seaside and Oceanside. Surely they would be valuable and much needed!

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