SAN PEDRO, Calif. – Touching a bat star from top to bottom is one of the cool things that fourth-grader Elise Lamond is getting to experience at the Explore the Expedition open house.

And that includes feeling the difference between different types of sea stars. 

“It kind of feels like the sea urchin but not as like spiky," said Elise. 

This open house gives the public a glimpse into the biodiversity that scientists have been collecting in the LA Urban Ocean Expedition.

The specimens they find in the waters of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach are brought back to the pop-up lab at Alta Sea to be studied.

And Elise is discovering new things about animals in her local ocean…like the behavior of sea stars. 

“It feels weird because they kind of attach themselves to your hand and it feels like they’re sucking on your hand,” said Elise. 

Elise came with her grandmother Beverly Lafontaine who is a long-time member of the Natural History Museum. 

Lafontaine says she has seen things at the open house that she’s never seen before including new types of marine worms.  

“Every time I’ve ever seen tube worms in a documentary about ocean life, they’ve always been gigantic, I had no idea they could come so tiny, they’re almost microscopic,” said Lafontaine.

The specimens that Elise and her grandmother get to see are here in an effort to better understand the life that lives underwater and how the Natural History Museum build their collections so scientists in the future can study was has been found today.

“We’ve created a baseline of understanding of the human impact on the ocean and how we’re progressing and what those environmental factors are putting pressure on them or just the diversity of life and understanding it better,” said Milena Acosta. 

Today’s Explore the Expedition open house has changed Elise’s perspective on what she thought of marine biology.

“I used to think they were kind of creepy,” said Elise.

She will leave today knowing that the sea cucumbers and sea stars were her favorites, and maybe she’ll get to see one the next time she’s in the ocean.