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

Microbeads and Ocean Pollution

Microbeads and other microplastics show up on beaches worldwide.

  Your toothpaste might have more in common with the Pacific garbage patch than you ever thought possible. Microbeads—tiny little particles of plastic that have a way of getting into everything—are often found in both places. They’re used in many health and beauty products, including toothpastes and face washes, because they can help scrub surfaces clean. Unfortunately, once you spit out your toothpaste, or rinse off your face, they go right down the drain, and eventually end up in our oceans. Once there, they are extremely difficult to get rid of. Microbeads, along with other small pieces of plastic, compose …

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A Celebration to Remember

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  This past weekend, we had the privilege of celebrating our 20th Anniversary with many of our founders, supporters, partners, and community members—all while admiring beautiful views of the bay. Some of the people who came to the event had been involved with the Bay Foundation and the Friends of the Estuary—two organizations that were instrumental in establishing protection for Morro Bay at both the state and the national levels. Many of them still work to protect our bay to this day. Some had worked hard, along with over 700 other community members and experts, to create the comprehensive management plan for the …

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Sea Otter Awareness Week 2015

Sea otter eating in Morro Bay. Photograph courtesy of “Mike" Michael L. Baird, flickr.bairdphotos.com

  It’s Sea Otter Awareness Week, which makes us remember how lucky we are to have a group of southern sea otters living in Morro Bay. Sea otters don’t have the blubber that other marine mammals depend on to keep them warm. Instead, they have water-resistant coats that are very thick, with up to one-million hairs per square inch. Because of this, their pelts were prized by hunters and furriers in the 18th and 19th centuries, leading to a huge reduction in the worldwide otter population. The situation along the California coast was so dire that otters were thought to be …

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Give a Day for the Bay with Morro Bay in Bloom

Thomas, a long-term volunteer with Morro Bay in Bloom, surveys the succulent bed at the top of Centennial Parkway’s staircase.

  Every Saturday morning at 9 a.m., Morro Bay in Bloom volunteers spring into action. They meet at different locations each week, and work together to beautify Morro Bay. When they landscape and tidy public spaces, they follow bay-friendly practices like planting drought-tolerant plants, avoiding the use of herbicides, and removing invasives. We are happy that Morro Bay in Bloom has dedicated three of their regularly scheduled cleanups this summer and fall to our Give a Day for the Bay campaign. This past weekend, the “Bloomies” (as they sometimes call themselves) met at the top of the stairway in Centennial …

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National Estuaries Week Starts Strong and Ends with a Party!

National Estuaries Week starts next Saturday, September 19, and ends on September 26. It’s a chance to celebrate and to focus on taking care of all of the places around the country where freshwater meets the sea. The Morro Bay National Estuary Program is excited to start this special week with a bang by hosting two cleanup sites on the Morro Bay sandspit for International Coastal Cleanup Day. Last year, our volunteer team filled 4 trash bags and collected 48 pounds of debris from these same sites. Statewide, the California Coastal Commission reports that “nearly 67,000 volunteers removed more than 1,190,000 …

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Understanding Eelgrass Decline and Evaluating Restoration Activities

Restoration Projects Manager, Jen Nix (on right) readies materials for our eelgrass seed dispersal project.

  Morro Bay’s eelgrass beds are a critical resource. They provide food and shelter to many plants and animals, including juvenile rockfish, steelhead trout, various shorebirds and waterfowl, and the southern sea otter. Eelgrass also helps to improve water quality. It increases water clarity, produces oxygen, sequesters carbon, and absorbs excess nutrients. Studies have shown that eelgrass is also capable of removing toxic contaminants from marine sediments. Unfortunately, eelgrass beds are diminishing worldwide. Nearly ¼ million acres of eelgrass have been lost globally over the last 30 years. This rate is comparable to losses reported for mangroves, coral reefs, and …

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Assessing the quality of aquatic habitats with CRAM

A small waterfall with healthy Poison Oak (Toxidendron rydbergii) pictured in the foreground, growing along Chorro Creek. Poison oak is a native plant that some consider beautiful.

  The California Rapid Assessment Method, or CRAM for short, is used to determine ecosystem quality for aquatic habitats. These habitats include wetlands, rivers, estuaries, and lakes. The Morro Bay National Estuary Program has used the CRAM assessment both before and after habitat restoration projects throughout the Morro Bay watershed to monitor habitat improvements over time. This method involves evaluating stretches of streams for their vegetation, stream bed complexity, bank stability, and the health of the surrounding ecosystem. To truly determine how healthy a stretch of stream is, you have to get your feet wet! Estuary Program staff have recently …

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Fire and the Morro Bay National Estuary

A harbor seal rests in the bay, beneath a sky full of smoke. Photograph by Ruth Ann Angus, August, 1994.

  This week’s fire on the Cuesta Grade comes almost exactly 21 years after the devastating Highway 41 fire of August 1994. Ruth Ann Angus, local photographer, writer, and long-time supporter of the Estuary Program, was out kayaking on the bay with a friend when the Highway 41 blaze began. As Ruth Ann recalls, “We paddled all the way back to Sweet Springs and as we turned around there, I spotted the puff of smoke in the sky. I knew it was bad so we immediately began paddling back to the Marina area….” She took photos on the way back …

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Learn about the Morro Bay estuary with our staff

A group of students note the plants and animals they've seen on a walk through the elfin forest.

  With the start of the new school year just around the bend, it’s an exciting time for teachers and students alike. Estuary Program staff are excited about the school year, too. Education and outreach have always been an essential part of our mission, and our staff members work routinely with students and other interested groups to teach them about our bay and watershed. Recently, we have worked with a wide range of interested parties including college students from both Cal Poly and UCSB who are studying science, a group of girl scouts who traveled across the county to see …

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Saturday Scientists at the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History

Even the docents get involved. Christine Lanier (left) and Cheryl Powers (right) look at flowers under a dissecting scope during the “Mayflowers” Saturday Scientists program, which is typically held near Mother’s Day each year. Photograph courtesy of the Morro Bay Natural History Museum.

  Have you ever seen a toe-biter or a mayfly magnified to 30 times its normal size? Have you examined the root of an onion so closely that you could observe cells dividing in its root cap? Have you gotten a bee’s view of pollen on a flower stamen? If so, odds are that you’ve been to a Saturday Scientists program at the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History. Saturday Scientists has been an institution at the museum for the past four years. These engaging two-hour-long programs draw in curious locals and visitors alike to examine specimens from the natural …

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