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

Celebrating the Complexity of the Morro Bay Estuary

The back bay is totally inundated at this high king tide.

  National Estuaries Week runs through September 23 and celebrates the benefit we reap from our thriving coastal ecosystems. This has us thinking about how complex and special estuary ecosystems and the wildlife that thrives here are. Estuaries are places of transition. The salty tides wash in and out over the mud flats, inundating the marsh and mixing with the freshwater influx from upland streams. The plants and animals that live in the estuary and the habitats that border its edges have special adaptations to survive these changes. The time-lapse video above shows a complete twelve-hour tidal cycle in Morro Bay. (Video …

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Coastal Cleanup Day 2017

Here is a picture of the whole wonderful cleanup crew for 2017.

  Today was the 31st Coastal Cleanup Day. This international event is the largest annual volunteer event in California, and the Estuary Program is always happy to work with volunteers to pick up trash on the Morro Bay sandspit. This morning’s group of volunteers gathered early at Morro Bay Landing to hear from Sylvia, a California State Parks representative, about how snowy plovers use the sandspit and what we can do to help protect them. These small shorebirds are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and as a bird of special concern for the State of California. Morro Bay’s sandspit …

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Poison Oak: Nature’s Immune Response

classic oak

    Guest post by Anders Johnson, Communications & Outreach Intern for Clean Boating. Anders grew up in Morro Bay and is an avid surfer and kayak fisherman. After receiving his B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology, he traveled abroad and worked on small farms. He has since returned to Morro Bay and is working on his M.S. in Resilient and Sustainable Communities. At the Estuary Program, Anders talks with boaters in the bay about the resources available to them to help keep our waters clean.   A quick hike beyond the concrete in Morro Bay will reveal …

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Field Updates August 2017: Eelgrass and Creeks

Matt, our Field Technician, works to identify and count the stages of the flowering shoots in a one-meter by one-meter plot.

  See what our volunteers and field staff have been working on during the past month. Eelgrass We completed our second round of 2017 small-scale experimental eelgrass transplanting in July, in collaboration with Cal Poly and California Sea Grant. In total, we planted seventeen one-meter by one-meter plots of eelgrass including nine in the forebay (across from the Tidelands boat launch) and eight in the midbay (across from Morro Bay Oyster Company). Though our midbay location was not as successful as the forebay site, we were able to glean useful information from these efforts, including which areas to target and …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: California Brown Pelicans

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California Brown Pelicans are easy to spot in Morro Bay’s waters. They’re one of the biggest birds out there, larger than other subspecies of brown pelicans, though a bit smaller than white pelicans. Adults have a wingspan of about 6.5 feet, and they can weigh up to 11 pounds. They also dive in a big way. A pelican can begin its descent from up to 60 feet in the air, once it has spotted a fish with its keen eyes.   The impact of the pelican’s dive is lessened by air sacs beneath its skin, which also help to buoy …

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Photograph Friday: When Plants and Animals Swap Names

Hummingbird sage, salvia-spathacea.

  The protected waters of Morro Bay support a diverse range of plants and wildlife, as do the coastal habitats that surround the bay. In today’s Photograph Friday post, we’re celebrating that biodiversity in a fun way, by taking a peek at a selection of local plants and animals with interesting common names. Specifically, we’re focusing on plants that are named after animals and animals that are named for fruiting plants. Check them out below! See the bottom of the post for a giveaway opportunity. Find out how sea lemons taste and smell to predators.   Learn about sticky monkey flower. …

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Community Grants Benefit Morro Bay

Two SeaLife Stewards volunteers, ready to go out on the water safely.

  The Estuary Program does a lot of boots-on-the-ground conservation, restoration, research, and monitoring work. Our staff members visit classrooms to help students learn how to be good stewards of the bay, and we reach out to locals and visitors alike through our Estuary Nature Center. No matter what we accomplish, we know that there is always more work to be done. We are lucky that so many other local organizations and individuals have great ideas for projects to benefit the bay, its wildlife, and the people who know and love this special place. Because of this, we fund a …

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Field Updates July 2017

George and Estuary Program volunteer, Nick, finish planting eelgrass shoots within a one-meter squared plot.

    Estuary Program staff and volunteers were hard at work in the field this past month. Fieldwork in July focused on preparing for a second round of eelgrass restoration. As you may recall, we collaborated with CalPoly on a similar effort in March, 2017. This effort was conducted earlier in the year than in past efforts in hopes that the eelgrass would become established before large macroalgae blooms, which typically occur during the summer here in Morro Bay. After four months, we were seeing growth and expansion of eelgrass at our forebay plot (or, eelgrass had expanded outside of …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Swell Shark

Swell shark closeup by Josh More, via Flickr.

    Movies like Jaws and Sharknado can make sharks seem like mindless killing machines—even the dramatic music typically used to accompany footage of sharks has been shown to affect our perception of them. Despite their deadly pop culture image, the more scientists study sharks, the more they find that humans are not their intended prey. While species like great whites might “sample bite” humans, they rarely pursue people after that first bite. In fact, many shark attacks seem to be a case of mistaken identity, where the shark takes a surfer, paddler, or swimmer for a sea lion or …

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Photograph Friday: Fieldwork Before Sunrise

The crew of staff and volunteers harvested eelgrass in their assigned locations as the sun rose over Morro Bay. The crew of staff and volunteers harvested eelgrass in their assigned locations as the sun rose over Morro Bay.

“Time and tide will wait for no man, saith the adage. But all men have to wait for time and tide.” —Charles Dickens, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit   This saying about the inevitable march of time and the seasons can be traced back to the 1200s, but it felt very relevant at 5:00 this morning when Estuary Program staff and a few stout-hearted and warmly-dressed volunteers ventured out to the beach near Target Rock. There, we began the second round of the small-scale eelgrass transplant project that began back in March. Before setting the date for work to begin, staff had to monitor …

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