This study explores the potential of intertidal Protothaca staminea shells as high-resolution geochemical archives of environmental change in a coastal upwelling region. Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca ratios were analyzed by excimer laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) at sub-weekly temporal resolution in shells growing ???1 mm per month. Growth patterns of a modern P. staminea shell from Humboldt Bay, California, collected in December 1999 made it possible to infer a lifespan from 1993 to 1998. Growth hiatuses in the shell may have excluded records of extreme events. Mg/Ca ratios appeared to be partly controlled by water temperature; the correlation coefficient between temperature and Mg/Ca was r = 0.71 in one of four growth increments. Significant year-to-year differences in the sensitivity of Mg/Ca to temperature in P. staminea could not be explained, however. Sr/Ca ratios appeared to be more closely related to shell growth rate. Oxygen isotopes, measured at 2-week temporal resolution in the same shell, did not show a clear relation to local temperature in summer, possibly because temperatures were higher and less variable at the King Salmon mudflat, where the shell was collected, than in the main channel of Humboldt Bay, where water properties were monitored. Negative shell ??13C values (<-0.5???) marked spring and summer coastal upwelling events. The Mg contents of P. staminea midden shells dated to ???3 ka and ???9 ka were significantly lower than in the modern shell. This may have resulted from degradation of a Mg-rich shell organic matrix and precluded quantitative interpretation of the older high-resolution records. Elevated ??13C values in the ???3 ka shell suggested that the individual grew in highly productive or stratified environment, such as a shallow coastal embayment or lagoon. Copyright ?? 2004 Elsevier Ltd.