Interpretive panels to tell stories along La Jolla's coast

A concept drawing shows what the interpretive panels may look like.  Courtesy
A concept drawing shows what the interpretive panels may look like. Courtesy

By Kathy Day

Staff Writer

Ever stood along the coast of La Jolla, wondering just what lives beneath the ocean you’re eyeing?

Within a couple of months, if you’re standing near the Seaside Forum at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, you’ll have some answers.

Through a partnership between the Birch Aquarium and the La Jolla Community Foundation, a series of interpretive panels is being developed that will share just such facts. The first one, now in the final design phase, will show “Species Found along the La Jolla Coast.”

Nigella Hilgarth, executive director of the Birch Aquarium, is especially excited about “interpreting ocean life for our visitors.”

The project, she said was “inspired by people at the La Jolla Community Foundation who love the ocean. They invited us to get involved.”

The panel, approximately 36 by 24 inches in size atop a metal stand designed to resist the elements, will be situated along the walkway overlooking the beach south of Scripps Pier and placed so it won’t interfere with the view or the buildings.

Its colorful photos will highlight birds, sea life such as the grunion that frequent our coastline when they spawn and even the giant kelp that sits off the shore.

“People don’t realize what’s inside the kelp forest,” Hillgarth said. “We have our own rain forest just offshore.”

While the first one has been approved by UCSD officials, others are in the planning stages, said Buzz Woolley, a community foundation board member who is spearheading the effort. They’re working with city and Coastal Commission staff to be sure they follow all appropriate regulations, he noted.

Woolley and Hillgarth envision a series of 10 to 12 panels, placed along the coastline from Scripps to Bird Rock.

“We’ve brainstormed other ideas,” Woolley said. “We want to reach out and are open to other ideas.”

And, he added, there’s no reason they can’t continue into Mission Beach, although someone else would have to carry the banner south.

As the concept develops — and donors step forward to help cover the estimated cost of $5,000 for each panel — the Birch and the foundation will draw on the expertise of the “several hundred scientists” at SIO for the information the signs will impart.

Woolley said the panels are a great way for the Birch and SIO to reach beyond the campus and the aquarium.

“A lot of people don’t get to the aquarium, but think how many people — visitors and La Jollans — walk along the beach,” he said.

Phyllis Pfeiffer, president of the community foundation (and publisher of the Light), reiterated that the organization’s mission includes “enriching the environment, social and cultural experience of La Jolla.”

“These panels will touch all of these elements as well as our aesthetic character,” she said. “We’re excited that Nigella and the Birch Aquarium are involved because they play such an important role in our community.

Anyone interested in contributing or with an idea about a future panel should contact Trudy Armstrong at

or (858) 674-6979. The La Jolla Community Foundation is a partner of the San Diego Foundation.



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