Category Archives: Intertidal Monitoring

New Beachcomber Guide

Book Review by Jeanie McElwain, Class of 2003


The New Beachcomber’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest revised and expanded in 2019 by J. Duane Sept is “a stunning new resource for identifying the invertebrates and algae who live on our Island shores” says Jeanie McElwain of Whidbey Island in this book review.

Those who have used Sept’s previous editions know that they, along with Rick M. Harbro’s Whelks to Whales: Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest, are the take-to-the- beach defaults for anyone who wants to know the many species which aren’t on our Common Intertidal Invertebrates EZ-ID cards.

Is it worth upgrading to Sept’s new work if you already have his previous editions? Absolutely! The book has dozens of additional species. Some pictures have been upgraded. And, to make ID easier, an Illustrated Glossary now identifies the body parts of commonly-found invertebrates.

At the front, 15 pages of shell photos, four to six shells per page, make it easy to compare many shells at once as we try to distinguish between species.

Sept has broken out the visually-confusing array of shield and finger limpets into forms based on the locations in which they are found. For the shield limpet, for example, he describes “all,” “rock,” “mussel,” “turban snail,” “feather boa” and “eelgrass” forms. For those of us who have despaired of ever being sure of our limpet ID skills, this is helpful and reassuring.

Another major change are the current and updated names of many species. This can be unsettling for those of us who love and remember some of our scientific names for the sheer beauty of the words. A point in case is the Painted Anemone, previously known as Urticina crassicornis and now renamed Urticina grebelnyi.

This is good because as citizen scientists, we need to be up-to-date, but also challenging, because making the shift is hard as our brains need to adjust for both old and new names.

The book is $26.95 and is sold at several local bookstores. Warning: it is over twice the size of the previous edition and roughly 3/4 inch larger in height and width. This makes it too big for most pockets, but well-worth the inconvenience for all the richness it adds to our ID adventures. I still take may take my old, smaller edition down to the beach, but this version is waiting in the car for me to check as soon as I leave the beach!