Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
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Morro Bay National Estuary

The Morro Bay Watershed Native Plant Series

    The Morro Bay watershed is one of the most botanically diverse regions in California. This diversity can be traced back to the ice ages as California’s coastline receded and advanced over thousands of years, and the tectonic plates settled into their current position. Many communities and species of plants have evolved here as a result of such active geologic change. These plant communities have continued to exist and thrive because San Luis Obispo County still resembles its natural state, despite increasing human habitation and land use development. Because the natural areas of Morro Bay have been so well …

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Morro Bay’s Black Brant: Monitoring the Status of a Bay Icon

This image from 1999 shows a large flock of Black Brant overhead. Brant are no longer coming to Morro Bay in these numbers.

    Guest post by John Roser John’s field biology work began about 35 years ago. Early field work was with California Condors and Bald Eagles. Eventually he detoured into an enjoyable 25-year career in outdoor science education. Over 20 years ago John began a voluntary study of Morro Bay’s wintering Brant Population. His interest in Brant has led him to volunteer with Brant biologists from Baja to Humboldt Bay and as far as Brant breeding colonies in arctic Alaska. In the mid 1990s I often heard the opinion that one of Morro Bay’s icons, Black Brant geese, were in …

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Field Updates January 2018

    Fulfilling our mission to protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary for people and animals requires a lot of hard work in the field. At the Estuary Program, that often means spending time doing research and monitoring work out on the water. Read on to see what our staff and volunteers have been up to during the first month of 2018! Eelgrass Monitoring We started the new year by monitoring the eelgrass we transplanted in March and July of 2017.  With the help of Cal Poly, including graduate student Erin Aiello, we have been monitoring these plots regularly …

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2017 Accomplishments: Eelgrass Restoration Update

Tim, a Watershed Stewards Program member, plants seeds.

  If you have been following along with our blog, you know that eelgrass has drastically declined in Morro Bay since 2007, and that we’ve been working hard to address this issue. Our staff members have been collaborating with agencies, researchers, and volunteers to conduct extensive monitoring and research efforts that will help us better understand eelgrass growth and the conditions that might be impacting it. Read on to see what we accomplished in 2017.   Experimental eelgrass transplants and transplant monitoring In 2017, we put the knowledge we have gained to work with a small-scale experimental eelgrass transplanting. Partnering …

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2017 Accomplishments: Collaborating for a Healthy Pennington Creek

Pennington Creek waterfall closeup

  The cold clear waters of Pennington Creek provide a home to many species, including our iconic steelhead. Pennington Creek is also home to the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) Escuela Ranch and the Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School. The Estuary Program works with these landowners and other partners to protect and enhance habitat in and around the creek for sensitive species like steelhead. During 2017, we collaborated to put past projects to good use and to complete groundwork for important upcoming projects. Helping the Waters Run Clear At Cal Poly’s Escuela Ranch, the university is training the next …

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2017 Accomplishments: Clean Boating Outreach

      Our 2017 Accomplishments blog series highlights some of the Estuary Program’s work during the past calendar year. During the summer of 2017, our Communications & Outreach Intern for Clean Boating paddled the bay, bringing clean boating kits in a crate on the back of his paddleboard. He reached out to people whose boats were tied at mooring or slips, and even motoring around the bay. The clean boating kits he offered contained information about the resources available to boaters, including pumpout stations and oil recycling facilities. The kits also included practical tools like an oil absorbent sock …

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2017 Accomplishments: Community Projects Funded

Western snowy plover. Photograph by Pacific Southwest Region Fish and Wildlife Service, via Flickr.

    Our 2017 Accomplishments blog series highlights some of the Estuary Program’s work during the past calendar year. Community Projects for 2017 Twice per year, the Estuary Program reviews proposals for community projects that benefit the Morro Bay estuary and watershed. Each successful application must address at least one of the goals of our management plan. Past community projects have addressed a wide range of issues, including bay-friendly and fire-safe gardening, rainwater harvesting, and estuarine-science education. All incoming applications must first pass a staff review before moving on to our advisory work groups, committees, and the Bay Foundation Board …

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Field Updates December 2017

We also spotted this crab in the eelgrass.

  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 December. We’re looking forward to another productive year of field work in 2018! Permanent Transects In 2005, with help from the Battelle Marine Sciences staff, we established four permanent transects for annual eelgrass monitoring in Morro Bay. These transects were chosen to represent different zones of the bay and capture differences between these zones. We added an additional …

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Director’s Desk Year-End Reflections 2017: Collaborating for Morro Bay

    From the Director’s Desk is a twice-yearly blog series, written by Executive Director Lexie Bell. Lexie plans and directs the program’s work, and collaborates with the Estuary Program’s many partners to expand our collective success in the watershed. Lexie first began working in Morro Bay as a graduate student at the UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. Her graduate work analyzed the economic impact of visitors’ perceptions of environmental quality in Morro Bay. In addition to her Master’s degree, Lexie graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science and Biology. Previously, …

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What are those snails in Morro Bay? Investigating the bubble snail boom

These are snail larvae in a sample taken from Morro Bay, illuminated in a microscope.

  Guest post by Jennifer Ruesink, a scientist and Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. Jennifer Ruesink has been a faculty member at the University of Washington, Seattle, since 1999. Her expertise is in the ecology of estuarine ecosystems, especially structure-forming species such as seagrass and oysters. For her sabbatical in 2017-2018, she is visiting as many estuaries as possible along the Northeast Pacific coast, starting in Washington, as far south as Baja California, and finally around to Alaska before coming back down the coast. All these estuaries contain the same species of eelgrass, and many have commercial oyster …

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