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

Look Who’s Swimming in the Estuary Program Nature Center…Trout!

The steelhead trout eggs were transported to us in protective netting.

  If you’ve been to the Estuary Program Nature Center, you’ve probably seen our Saving Steelhead exhibit. Many visitors stop and watch, entranced, as the fish dart by. It’s important for us to share the steelhead’s story. Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are a special kind of trout. While they are genetically identical to rainbow trout, their behavior sets them apart. Rainbow trout spend their entire lives in freshwater. Steelhead trout hatch in freshwater streams and then migrate to the ocean. They grow big at sea, before returning to the stream where they hatched to spawn. Steelhead are a sensitive species. They …

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The Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest Goes Wild

While monitoring eelgrass, our staff spotted this California sea hare under the water at Coleman beach.

  Our annual poetry contest opens on April 1, and we’re excited to announce a new twist on the contest’s theme. We will continue to accept haiku that focus on any and all aspects of the estuary—we still can’t resist the haiku’s history and its ability to preserve the moment and capture the beauty of nature. We’re also introducing a new contest category that asks writers to pen poems that focus on wildlife native to the estuary or the surrounding watershed. (See our complete contest rules, here.) We hope that this new contest category will give people a chance to learn …

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Spring Bioassessment – Join the Team!

Estuary Program staff complete a habitat assessment during a bioassessment survey in 2015.

  Each spring, the Estuary Program and our volunteers engage in a bioassessment monitoring effort at a variety of sites along local creeks. This monitoring process follows a detailed protocol to collect habitat data and samples of macroinvertebrates or “macros,” which are insects that are visible to the naked eye. Some macros are very sensitive to pollution, so if you find them in a creek, you know that the water quality is good. This water penny, for example, is found in the creeks in our watershed. It spends from one to two years of its life cycle in this larval …

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Symbolic Fencing Helps Morro Bay’s Snowy Plovers

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  Western snowy plovers can be hard to see. These shorebirds are small—just about the size of a sparrow. On top of that, they blend in well with the sand and lay their speckled eggs in shallow scrapes or depressions in dune habitat, along beaches, and in other sandy areas. Because it’s so hard to spot these birds, well-meaning beachgoers can accidentally wreak havoc on snowy plover nesting sites. Wandering too close to a nest can frighten an adult plover away, causing it to abandon incubating its eggs. Accidentally walking through a nesting site can destroy it. Though these birds …

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A Busy Weekend in Morro Bay

A view of the estuary from the Elfin Forest.

  Residents and visitors alike love to learn and play in Morro Bay. This weekend, the weather is likely to be clear, so you’ll have the chance to get outside. Here are our picks for a fun weekend in Morro Bay.   For the curious Small Wilderness Area Preservation (SWAP) hosts a Third Saturday Walk Head to the beautiful Elfin Forest in Los Osos bright and early on Saturday morning for a Fungus Foray. This walk that will shed some light on the shady world of fungi. Dennis Sheridan will lead the group through the Elfin Forest, keeping an eye out for …

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Be a Citizen Scientist

This years King Tides combined with the higher sea levels experienced during El Nino covered the stairs at Tidelands park.

    If you are curious about the natural world, scientists need your help! Citizen science projects harness the power of interested people to gather data for use in important research. Many of these projects ask people to observe and document the plants, animals, or natural phenomena around them with a camera or smart phone, whenever they wish. Others require more specific training, or ask for in-person participation. Our own Monitoring program uses data gathered by citizen scientist volunteers and staff members to keep an eye on long-term trends in water quality, bacteria levels, and other factors that influence stream …

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An Update on Microbeads and Ocean Pollution

Oyster photograph by Jeremy Keith.

  In October 2015, we showed you how plastic microbeads cause problems for the world’s oceans. When we use face wash, toothpaste, and other products that contain microbeads, the tiny plastic particles flow down the drain and can end up in our waterways. Eventually, some of these beads add to the plastic pollution in the five gyres, including the Pacific Garbage Patch. Today, we are revisiting microbeads because a new study published in Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences showed that polystyrene microplastics affect oyster reproduction in a negative way. Oysters, which are filter feeders, can mistake microplastic particles for phytoplankton, consuming the …

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Appreciating Wetlands Worldwide and at Home

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Estuary, fen, mire, morass, quagmire, slough—a person could get bogged down in all the words for wetlands! These fertile places where land and water meet are as rich in language as they are in life. Wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world; according to the USEPA, they’re comparable even to rainforests and coral reefs. Wetlands produce a bounty of plants, microbes, invertebrates, and other small lifeforms, which in turn attract larger wildlife. They provide essential habitat for waterfowl and wading birds, many of which breed, nest, and raise their young in wetlands.   Wetlands also help …

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Birds and Morro Bay

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  At least one billion birds migrate along the Pacific Flyway each year. (One billion birds!) Most of these birds migrate at night. They take off near sunset, moving together in groups that can be seen as large colorful swirls on Doppler radar. In the winter, thousands of these migrating birds make a much-needed stopover in Morro Bay, foraging for food and resting on and near its clean waters in order to conserve energy for the continuation of their journeys. The Estuary Program recently talked with Dave Tyra, President of the Morro Coast Audubon Society (MCAS) about Morro Bay’s birds. …

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What Estuary Program stories compel you?

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  The Estuary Program blog turns one at the end of January! In this first year, we’ve been happy to bring you an in-depth look at our projects, program updates, information about bay-friendly living, stories about people who are making a difference, and ideas for fun activities that you can do around the estuary. If you missed any of our posts, you can catch up by scrolling down our main blog page. If you’re looking for the highlights, here are links to our top five posts of 2015:   1. Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest Winners 2015 Each year, we ask poets …

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