Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.

Field Updates November 2017

Field Updates November 2017

Our Field Technician, Kelley, and two CalPoly student volunteers work on measuring blade length and taking photos.

 

 

Fulfilling our mission to protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary for people and animals requires a lot of hard work in the field. Read on to see what our staff and volunteers have been up to during the month of November.

For some people, the big November negative tides provide a great opportunity for going tide pooling or to surf a low tide break. For the Estuary Program, these low tides are the start of our busy fall and winter eelgrass monitoring season.

Eelgrass Bed Condition Monitoring

This is our third year of conducting an eelgrass survey called Bed Condition Monitoring. We do this in partnership with Cal Poly. The survey takes place at the four most significant eelgrass beds throughout Morro Bay.

The goal of the monitoring is to determine how healthy the eelgrass beds are by assessing their condition through density, patchiness, and observational data. Check out this blog post from last year to learn more about the data we collect during these surveys.

Eelgrass Bed Condition Monitoring Steps

1. The first step is to look at the different species of algae and invertebrates in the quadrat.

eelgrass quadrat with algae

We look for the presence of algae in each of our quadrats.

2. Next, we count the total number of eelgrass shoots a subset of the quadrat.

Volunteers get ready to start counting the number of shoots in four of the squares inside this quadrat.

Volunteers get ready to start counting the number of shoots in four of the squares inside this quadrat.

3. Next, we measure the length of the eelgrass shoots and take photos for future analysis.

Our Field Technician, Kelley, and two CalPoly student volunteers work on measuring blade length and taking photos.

Our Field Technician, Kelley, and two Cal Poly student volunteers work on measuring blade length and taking photos.

4. Finally, we look at the epiphytes (plants growing on the eelgrass) and epifauna (animals living on the eelgrass).

A volunteer checks each blade on an eelgrass shoot for epiphytes and epifauna.

A volunteer checks each blade on an eelgrass shoot for epiphytes and epifauna.

A huge thank you to our student volunteers from Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara, as well as our 2017 Monitoring Volunteer of the Year, Mike Lindley!

These three volunteers, as well as Field Technician, Matt, came out on a rather chilly, windy Sunday evening to help us complete our monitoring.

These three volunteers, as well as Field Technician, Matt (on far right), came out on a rather chilly, windy Sunday evening to help us complete our monitoring.

Eelgrass Seed Deployments

We also put out more eelgrass seeds in the back bay near Cuesta Inlet.

Here you can make out a few of the seed bags, starting to get covered in a layer of sediment.

Here you can make out a few of the seed bags, starting to get covered in a layer of sediment.

The seed bags are placed inside PVC markers so that we can come back to the exact same location and track how many germinate.

Pressure Transducer Survey

The Estuary Program has installed seven pressure transducers (PTDs) throughout the Morro Bay watershed. These pieces of equipment continuously monitor the water levels in the creeks. Check out this blog post for more about how they work.

In order to protect the long term data set at each site where we have PTDs, staff went out and took a series of measurements on the elevation of this equipment relative to a permanent marker nearby, called a benchmark.

Staff uses an autolevel to determine the elevation of a series of benchmarks. An autolevel a piece of surveying equipment that is essentially a telescope. You can see a staff member holding a stadia rod (giant rule) in the trees.

Staff uses an autolevel to determine the elevation of a series of benchmarks. An autolevel is a piece of surveying equipment that is essentially a telescope. You can see a staff member holding a stadia rod (giant ruler) in the trees.

If any of these PTD units are moved or swept away by large storm events, then the data we collected in this survey will allow us to reinstall them at exactly the same elevation they were placed before, allowing us to maintain a highly valuable, continuous data set.

You can see one of our PTDs on the lower left of this photo. This one held up through the high flows of last winter, but you can imagine why surveying them is important!

You can see one of our PTDs on the lower left of this photo. It’s the grey hose entering the water stream just above the large grey rock. This PTD held up through the high flows of last winter, but you can imagine why surveying them is important!


Subscribe to our weekly blog to have stories like these delivered to your inbox each week.

Donate to the Estuary Program to support our work in the field, the lab, and beyond.