Virtual Field Trip: Journey to Año Nuevo Island

Experience amazing sights and sounds on this virtual visit to Año Nuevo Island, a natural reserve that protects an incredible diversity of marine mammals and seabirds. Discover how UC Santa Cruz students and researchers study northern elephant seals and uncover patterns of animal species visiting this special place. On this adventure from the mainland to this small, extraordinary island, your students will be inspired by the wildlife and see how university students take part in important scientific research.

  • Designed for students in grades 2 and 3. Note that the classroom teacher is required to participate as a facilitator during the program.
  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Group size: 32 students maximum/one class
  • Cost: Free. Donations greatly appreciated!
  • Available: Tuesdays-Thursdays, starting anytime between 9 AM-11:15 AM. Offered through May 27, 2021.
  • Apply: Complete this online virtual field trip application to request a program date and time.

Next Generation Science Standards connections:

  • Grade 2: 2-LS4-1 Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.
  • Grade 3: 3-LS4-3 Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat, some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
  • Crosscutting Concepts: patterns; cause and effect; scale, proportion, and quantity
  • Science & Engineering Practices: analyzing and interpreting data; constructing explanations and designing solutions; engaging in argument from evidence

Overview of Journey to Año Nuevo Island

This virtual field trip includes the following.

  1. Welcome by the facilitator and guidelines for sharing observations and asking questions
  2. Google Earth orientation to the Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab and Año Nuevo Reserve
  3. Scientist introduces Año Nuevo Reserve and some animals found on the mainland
  4. How scientists journey to the island followed by the sights and sounds upon arrival
  5. Animal species found on the island and how scientists and UCSC students study seals
  6. Your students will search for and explain patterns from drone photos of animals on the island
  7. Your students will interpret similarities and differences in elephant seal paths while swimming at sea.
  8. See how university students gain experience at Año Nuevo Reserve as scientific researchers/
  9. Discover what’s happening at Año Nuevo that day (Live feed from Año Nuevo State Reserve, conditions permitting).

Animals Students Will See

On the mainlandOn Año Nuevo Island
Barn swallowBrandt’s cormorant
BobcatBrown pelican
Coast garter snakeCassin’s auklet
Northern elephant sealCalifornia sea lion
Shorebirds (various)Harbor seal
Northern elephant seal
Rhinoceros auklet
Steller sea lion
Western gull

After the Virtual Field Trip

Below are some discussion and writing prompts for teachers to use with students after the virtual field trip.

  1. Which animal species did you see on the island but not on the mainland? 
  2. Why do you think some of these animal species are found only on the island or only on the mainland?
  3. Describe some of the sights, sounds, and challenges for scientists arriving on the island.
  4. Describe the patterns you noticed in the drone photos of Año Nuevo Island taken at different times of the year?
  5. Satellite tags help scientists learn where individual elephant seals go for months when they’re not at Año Nuevo.
    • Where did the seals go? 
    • How were the paths of young seals different from the paths of adult females? 
    • How were the paths alike?
    • Explain your ideas about why the paths of the young seals might be different from the paths of the adults.
  6. In your opinion, what would be some of the most interesting things about being a scientist at Año Nuevo Reserve?

Explore More!

Listed below are useful links to reinforce and extend your students’ learning opportunities.

Advanced resources

Teacher resources

Thank you to Año Nuevo Natural Reserve’s director, Patrick Robinson, for making these field trips possible. Learn more at


August 15, 2021, 1:30 PM
Join us–online! “Fascinating Fish Bones: Archaeology for the Future of Fishers and Fisheries.” Preregister.

Continue exploring the diversity of mollusks around the world with Mollusk Mates. Find the newest coloring pages, here.

Say hello to the new Seymour Center director — Jonathan Andres Hicken! Starting in mid-August, Jonathan will continue the important work of the Seymour Center. Learn more, here.

Join our teamJOIN OUR TEAM!
The Seymour Center is seeking to hire for multiple positions. Learn about these opportunities, here.

Member Portal

Access the Seymour Center's member-only portal.


Find events and activities for ocean-enthusiasts of all ages.



Stay informed about what's new and upcoming at the Seymour Center.