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

2016 Volunteers of the Year

Karen stands at Windy Cove.

    Our volunteers are very special people, with a wide range of interests and talents. They paddle out in the wee hours of the morning to measure dissolved oxygen content in the bay, take plankton samples from local piers, get muddy monitoring water quality in local creeks, provide indispensable advice through our boards and committees, welcome visitors in to our Nature Center, and much more. We are thankful for them all throughout the year, and we have the opportunity to thank them in person each fall, at our Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. This year, we gathered at the Old School House …

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Bay-Friendly Halloween 2016

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  Halloween is a lot of fun; it means candy, costumes, and light-hearted mischief for everyone. But—between candy wrappers, disposable decorations, and party supplies—it can also create waste. You can make it a bay-friendly day by following the tips below. Have your candy, and keep the bay clean, too. Food wrappers and containers are consistently one of the most common forms of trash picked up during International Coastal Cleanup Day. (This year, according to the Ocean Conservancy, volunteers snagged 888,589 food wrappers alone.) If light-weight candy wrappers escape from eager trick-or-treaters’ hands, they can easily land on the street, make their way …

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Where is the water? Tracking water in our creeks

While pressure transducers and other automated equipment collect important data, much of our long-term dataset is collected by hand. Volunteers measure water quality each month by going out to creek or bay sites with equipment in hand. They take note of things like water temperature, dissolved oxygen content, and other measures that indicate creek health.

    Measuring the water level in local creeks gives us valuable data. We collect this data with pressure transducers. A pressure transducer is a water-level measuring device that we install by submerging it in the creek. It continuously measures the pressure of the water pushing down on it and converts it into a height measurement. These instruments can collect data for months or even years. Pressure transducers can be used in a wide range of applications, from weather stations, to flood control, to tracking reservoir water levels. We use these devices in our local creek systems to estimate how much …

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September Field Updates

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  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 September. Eelgrass September kicked off our busy fall season of eelgrass monitoring. We started the monitoring of eelgrass restoration beds planted in 2012–2014 for the presence and condition of eelgrass. To conduct this monitoring, our staff heads out on paddleboards with handheld GPS units and snorkel gear to find each restoration bed in search of eelgrass. Information gathered from this monitoring …

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Exploring the History of Morro Bay

The San Salvador docks in Morro Bay. Photograph by U.S. Coastguard Station Morro Bay.

    History Alive On September 29, 2016, a replica of explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo’s ship, the San Salvador, docked in Morro Bay. Cabrillo made several voyages by sea during the 1500s. His most famous journey to find the Northwest Passage led him along the California coast. In 1542, he landed his ship, the San Salvador, in what is now San Diego Harbor and claimed the land for the King of Spain. He then continued his expedition north along the coast and past Estero Bay. Cabrillo is credited with naming Morro Rock “El Moro” after the style of hat worn …

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Coastal Cleanup Day on the Morro Bay Sandspit

The whole crew celebrates their work and Coastal Cleanup Day.

  A wonderful group of volunteers came together to clean up the Morro Bay sandspit for International Coastal Cleanup Day. We gathered early on the Embarcadero to hear about the snowy plovers that depend on the sandspit dunes habitat to safely nest and hatch their chicks. We learned to stay outside of the yellow fencing on the sandspit in order to protect them.   Then, we hitched a ride with Thomas, Captain of the Lost Isle Tiki Boat, through the fog and out to the sandspit. (Thank you, Thomas!) We put on gloves, grabbed our recycling and trash bags, pocketed our pencils, and held tight …

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Celebrating Estuaries, Otters, and the California Coast

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September is full of special days for people who love the coast: National Estuaries Week This weeklong celebration of all the places where fresh water meets the salty sea is close to our hearts. It starts on International Coastal Cleanup Day this Saturday, and ends on National Public Lands Day on September 24. It’s a great time to get out and experience your local bay and do something to help it thrive. Sea Otter Awareness Week Though our weeks are always filled with sea otters in Morro Bay, Sea Otter Awareness Week begins September 18. It’s a time to focus …

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What Are Our Bugs Telling Us? Our Data is Here!

The Tricorythodes pictured here was collected from our local creeks. This small mayfly is popular with fish, but they swarm upon hatching, making conditions difficult for fly fishing.

  Our Monitoring Program and its dedicated corps of volunteers use various scientific methods to track the health of our waters. One tool in our arsenal is bioassessment monitoring, a detailed effort where we gather habitat data and collect macroinvertebrates or “macros,” bugs visible to the naked eye. Our 2016 Bioassessment Effort In April and May of this year, over 20 volunteers joined our staff in collecting habitat data and macro samples from eight sites on local creeks. Collectively, these volunteers put in over 100 hours of time to collect this data. At each site, they recorded over a thousand …

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August Field Updates

They got a calm, glassy morning for monitoring. 

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 August. Monitoring Staff Updates August was a quiet month for field work. Our monitoring staff spent time entering data and planning for upcoming eelgrass monitoring projects, but still got out into the field a few times. Our Field Technician, Evan, put on his snorkel gear and helped CalPoly professor Jenn Yost collect more eelgrass samples for genetic analysis.    We collected water …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: California Sea Hare

Estuary Program staff found this sea hare in an eelgrass bed near Coleman beach.

    Look deep into the eyes of this California Sea Hare (Aplysia californica), as it moves along the bottom of Morro Bay. Can’t find them? There is one eye located right beneath each rhinophore, or tentacle, at the front of the sea hare’s head. While you can look into the sea hare’s eyes (now that you’ve found them), the sea hare can’t return your gaze. Their vision is different from ours—they don’t see objects, but they can sense light and shadow. This allows them to avoid predators and to avoid coming out of the water during the daylight hours, …

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