Tucson women field guide to Sea of Cortez tidepool

By BONNIE HENRY   Arizona Daily Star
They started with a pie plate and a bucket. Later, they graduated to a net.

From those humble beginnings, Betty Hupp and Marilyn Malone — pals for decades, neither one a scientist — have come up with “The Edge of the Sea of Cortez,” a gorgeously photographed guide to what lives in the tidepools of the Upper Gulf of California.

“It’s setting new standards for guides. It is amazing,” says Don Thomson, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona.

“Most of the field guides around are more scientific, with relatively few pictures,” says Peggy Boyer, executive director of CEDO, the Spanish acronym for the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans in Rocky Point Mexico. A small Mexican fishing villiage.

Indeed it is — with 1,026 color photographs of everything from sponges to sea urchins, scallops to sea anemones, jellyfish to fiddler crabs.

“We wanted something for families,” says Hupp, who along with Malone will do a book-signing Dec. 13 at Tohono Chul Park.

In fact, it was family — more specifically, their kids — who planted the seed decades ago.

“We were on the beach years ago at Puerto Penasco,” says Malone, 71. “The kids would come up with something they’d found on the beach and say, ‘What’s this?’ ”

“And we’d say, ‘We don’t know,’ ” says Hupp, 79. “We couldn’t find anything to answer the kids’ questions.”

Settled into the same Midtown neighborhood in Tucson, the two met years ago on a field trip to the downtown library.

Hupp, the mother of six, was married to a pilot stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Malone, mother of two, was married to Carl Hodges, one of the founders of CEDO and one-time head of the UA’s Environmental Research Lab, which studied desalinization and prompted shrimp farming in Mexico.

She often accompanied her husband on his trips to the Sea of Cortez.

In 1981, she and Hodges divorced, and Malone, who’s since remarried, became a detective with the Tucson Police Department, investigating child abuse and neglect cases, including homicides.

Meanwhile, Hupp had also retired as an executive assistant at the UA. With more time to spare, the two women ratcheted up their friendship. In 2004, they attended a three-day tidepool institute at Puerto Penasco, also known as Rocky Point, put on by CEDO.

“There were marine biology interns there. They camped out. We got a motel room,” says Malone. They also delved into research, picking up books here and there but finding few photos in them other than in black and white.

Meanwhile, field research on the beach often entailed rising before dawn for low tide.

“We started with a small camera, a bucket and a glass pie plate to capture the animals and take photos from the undersides,” says Malone.

Every spring from 2004 through 2007 the two women picked out and photographed tidepool creatures on the beaches of Puerto Penasco and Cholla Bay.

“We would get queries from Mexicans and American tourists, but we never had any problems,” says Hupp. “We were just a couple of little old ladies.”

After the first trip, they shifted from film to digital images, taking 10,000 photographs in all.

They also took classes in how to best present those images in layout and design.

One of the hardest tasks was deciding what to leave out, what to leave in.

There were also environmental concerns.

“We tell people to be careful and put the rocks back where they found them,” says Hupp.

Adds Malone: “This is not a preachy, environmental book.”

Thomson, who along with other scientists helped edit the book, says none of the creatures highlighted in the book is endangered.

As the book took shape, editors in the scientific community gave them constant feedback. “We wanted to make it as accurate as possible,” adds Malone.

Self-published, the book is now being distributed by University of Arizona Press and is also available through CEDO.

“We learned a lot,” says Malone, who along with Hupp is hoping their book is translated into Spanish. They’re also thinking of doing another book, possibly on the Southern Gulf of California or even Hawaii.

Whatever they do, the agreement they entered into before this book still holds.

“We made a pact that family and friendship came first,” Hupp says.

“And we are still friends,” Malone says.

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Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com

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