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Morro Bay National Estuary

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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Cool Summer Fun Around Morro Bay

Here is Dennis testing out the new scope by zooming in on some harbor seals near the sandspit.

When temperatures rise during the summer months, it’s nice to find a place to keep cool while still having fun. Morro Bay offers sea breezes, recreation on the water, and hikes where you can catch some shade. Here are a few fun things to do in our special spot along the coast. Paddle to gain a new perspective If you like to be active and you don’t mind getting wet, go paddling. There are a variety of local kayak and paddleboard shops to rent from, and you’ll see wildlife like otters, seals, sea lions, pelicans, and cormorants in a new way …

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Field Updates June 2017

This dragonfly landed on a tree leaf, allowing us to see its intricate wing detail up close.

See what our volunteers and staff have been working on in the bay and watershed during the past month. Bioassessment The 2017 Bioassessment field season extended from April all the way into June. In June, we completed the final two surveys and then shipped off our bugs to the lab! We expect to have the bug scores sometime in the fall. One of our last surveys was on Upper Chorro Creek. The riparian corridor was teeming with dragonflies. Dragonflies are in the Order Odonata, which vary greatly in their tolerance level. Though the presence of these primitive creatures doesn’t necessarily …

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Bioblitz and July 4th Cleanups in Morro Bay

  July Fourth Weekend is always busy on the Central Coast. Morro Bay and Los Osos are no exception. People come here for the beautiful views, the mild temperatures, the chance to enjoy the water and see abundant wildlife. Morro Bay’s sunsets even light up the sky like a natural kind of firework. Whatever your plans are for this weekend or the coming holiday week, we have two activities that you can easily participate in to help the bay and liven up your day. Bioblitz Snapshot Cal Coast Through Sunday, July 2 This fun citizen science project asks people up and …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: California Two Spot Octopus

  The octopus is a creature that captures our imaginations. It has been doing so for thousands of years across many different cultures. Octopi were a common motif on pottery in ancient Greece and beyond. Octopi also made appearances in other historical art pieces, such as this woodcut from 18th Century Japan. More recently, the octopus made an animated splash in the film Finding Dory, where seven-tentacled Hank becomes quite the hero. Hank is based on the mimic octopus, which can change its shape and behavior to mimic other marine animals in order to avoid predators. (No wonder these creatures have …

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Photo Friday: Nature Photography Day in Morro Bay

The Morro Bay watershed is a wonderful place to stop, smell, and photograph wildflowers.

    June 15 is Nature Photography Day, which encourages people to get outside and explore the natural world with their cameras in hand. The Morro Bay estuary and the lands that surround it inspire many photographers and other artists to practice their craft. In honor of Nature Photography Day and the beauty of Morro Bay, we’re sharing some of our recent photos from around the bay and watershed. Western fence lizards, also called blue bellied lizards, are very common in California. One reason to take note of them is that they have a protein in their blood that kills the bacteria that …

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Field Updates May 2017: Bioassessment Surveys

Just three of our twenty-one great volunteers.

    As you know, 2017 has been a little rainy. Since the start of the 2017 water year, the county rain gauge at Camp SLO received 33.29″ of rain. This exciting water year has so far kept our staff busy collecting sediment samples, doing site checks to see if our equipment was still there and anxiously waiting for flows to subside to levels safe enough to monitor. This has also been enough rain to keep more sites wetted enough to conduct bioassessment surveys on. After a few years of only conducting about 5–7 surveys, for 2017 we had 12 …

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From the Director’s Desk: State of the Bay Update

Our Earth Day Pickup and Paddle event drew a wonderful crowd of volunteers who cleaned up the bay and shoreline by paddleboard.

    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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Sea Star Wasting Syndrome Monitoring in Morro Bay

Infected sea star; photograph taken on day one, June 27, 2014 on Guemes Island, Washington. Credit: Kit Harma, Evergreen Shore monitor.

  A mysterious disease called Sea Star Wasting Syndrome (SSWS) has been causing mass mortality of sea stars along much of the Pacific Coast from Baja California to the Gulf of Alaska. Twenty-two species of sea stars have been affected by it, making this a die-off event of the greatest magnitude, spread over the greatest geographic area to date. Melissa Douglas, Associate Research Specialist at University of California, Santa Cruz, is an expert on the syndrome. She is concerned about the spread of the disease. As she says, “Past SSWS outbreaks were restricted to Southern CA and Baja Mexico. Now …

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