marine biology

Jessica Placzek

Over the past few months, millions of velella velella have been washing up all along the California coast. They’re blue jellyfish-like creatures with tentacles hanging beneath the surface of the water, and a ridge that sits above it. But when velella velella are beached, their gelatin bodies bake in the sun and they harden to resemble something that looks like a Pringle.

Julia Scott

Take a trip to the bottom of San Francisco Bay, and you’d find a lot of critters that aren’t supposed to be here at all. Hundreds of tiny, exotic organisms now live there, too.

“It’s unfortunately on the rarer side to find those things that should be here,” says Chris Brown, a biologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, based in Marin. His lab works to locate and identify foreign marine life. Brown says the Bay is like an underwater zoo, with species from all over the world.