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

Field Updates September 2017: Pikeminnow and Eelgrass

Collected seeds are held in mesh bags in the estuary until they mature. Mature seeds will have a hard, longitudinally ribbed coat and can vary in color, including olive, dark brown and black.

    Protecting and restoring the bay and estuary takes a lot of boots on the ground. See what our volunteers and field staff have been working on during the past month. Pikeminnow Management Chorro Creek used to be home to a healthy population of steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), however their numbers have declined. While there are multiple factors that contribute to this, a fish called the Sacramento pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus grandis) put pressure on steelhead. Pikeminnow eat juvenile steelhead and compete with steelhead for food and habitat. While native to other parts of California, pikeminnow are not native to the Morro …

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Be Sea-Otter Aware in Morro Bay

  Sea Otter Awareness Week is drawing to a close, but—lucky for residents and visitors—sea otters live in Morro Bay year-round. This story could have been different; sea otters were once hunted almost to extinction for their thick pelts. (They have about one-million hairs per square inch, which helps keep them warm in our cold waters.) They were so scarce that they were thought to be extinct along the California Coast. However, one small group of otters survived along the coast of Big Sur; this group was first sighted in the 1930s. The otters that you see in Morro Bay …

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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

    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

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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