National Park Service

How do park rangers protect the ocean waters of Channel Islands National Park? They dive in! The Channel Islands—five islands off the coast of California—are home to one of North America’s most biologically diverse ocean ecosystems. One of the islands’ distinguishing features is their underwater kelp forests. We spoke to Kelly Moore, a former Channel Islands underwater ranger, about her job safeguarding sea life.

Q: What kinds of research did you do at the park?
A: I was part of a team that went scuba diving to gather information about more than 70 species annually. We would use waterproof paper to record the number of creatures we’d observe and how well kelp was growing. I spent about 12 years exploring the kelp forest. In that time, I saw fish populations increase, particularly in the part of the Channel Islands that’s now a protected marine reserve. Fishing is restricted in that area. Hopefully, it’s the start of a wonderful success story. 

Q: Why are the park’s kelp forests important?
A: More than 1,000 species live in the park’s kelp ecosystem, including 150 found nowhere else on Earth. Also, kelp is a type of algae seaweed. Those aquatic organisms provide much of the oxygen we breathe every day.

Q: What’s the most memorable thing you have seen?
A: Once, a 30-foot-long baby gray whale swam right past me as I was diving. I think my heart nearly jumped right out of my chest!