Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
estuary program

Field Updates April and May 2018: Bioassessment Monitoring and New Team Members

Monitoring team works in the middle of the creek.

    Bioassessment Monitoring Each spring, the Estuary Program conducts bioassessment monitoring throughout the Morro Bay Watershed. Bioassessment monitoring is an important tool that allows us to assess the health of local streams to determine their value as fish habitat. This monitoring involves collecting macroinvertebrates, insects visible to the naked eye, and taking measurements of things like water depth and canopy cover that tell us about the health of the creek. Check out this blog post to learn more about what bioassessment monitoring tells us about the health of our local creeks. Our bioassessment season kicked off on Saturday, April …

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The Morro Bay Watershed Native Plant Series

    The Morro Bay watershed is one of the most botanically diverse regions in California. This diversity can be traced back to the ice ages as California’s coastline receded and advanced over thousands of years, and the tectonic plates settled into their current position. Many communities and species of plants have evolved here as a result of such active geologic change. These plant communities have continued to exist and thrive because San Luis Obispo County still resembles its natural state, despite increasing human habitation and land use development. Because the natural areas of Morro Bay have been so well …

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Field Updates January 2018

    Fulfilling our mission to protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary for people and animals requires a lot of hard work in the field. At the Estuary Program, that often means spending time doing research and monitoring work out on the water. Read on to see what our staff and volunteers have been up to during the first month of 2018! Eelgrass Monitoring We started the new year by monitoring the eelgrass we transplanted in March and July of 2017.  With the help of Cal Poly, including graduate student Erin Aiello, we have been monitoring these plots regularly …

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2017 Accomplishments: Community Projects Funded

Western snowy plover. Photograph by Pacific Southwest Region Fish and Wildlife Service, via Flickr.

    Our 2017 Accomplishments blog series highlights some of the Estuary Program’s work during the past calendar year. Community Projects for 2017 Twice per year, the Estuary Program reviews proposals for community projects that benefit the Morro Bay estuary and watershed. Each successful application must address at least one of the goals of our management plan. Past community projects have addressed a wide range of issues, including bay-friendly and fire-safe gardening, rainwater harvesting, and estuarine-science education. All incoming applications must first pass a staff review before moving on to our advisory work groups, committees, and the Bay Foundation Board …

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Field Updates December 2017

We also spotted this crab in the eelgrass.

  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 December. We’re looking forward to another productive year of field work in 2018! Permanent Transects In 2005, with help from the Battelle Marine Sciences staff, we established four permanent transects for annual eelgrass monitoring in Morro Bay. These transects were chosen to represent different zones of the bay and capture differences between these zones. We added an additional …

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Photo Friday: Changing Light Around Morro Bay

Sweet Springs, looking out at Morro Rock during the day.

  We’re well into autumn, and the days are growing shorter. In Morro Bay, the sun will set at 6:30 p.m. this evening, a full 52 minutes earlier than it did at this year’s summer solstice. While many of us will miss those long summer and early-autumn days, there are many things to look forward to as the days grow shorter. One of them is the way the light changes around our bay. The golden gloaming comes sooner, and the colorful sunsets, too. Below, you will find three pairs of photographs taken at different locations in the bay. For each …

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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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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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Sea Star Wasting Disease | 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 Disease 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. …

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Eelgrass Restoration in Morro Bay Spring 2017

    Greetings, readers! This is Catie, the Morro Bay National Estuary Program’s Communications and Outreach Intern. I had the privilege of participating in the Estuary Program’s most recent small-scale experimental eelgrass restoration effort. We want to fill you in on the process here. Eelgrass (Zostera marina) plays a number of important roles in the function and health of the Morro Bay ecosystem.   Its long blades form an underwater forest, which provides a diverse crowd of creatures a place to rest, find food, and spawn. These are some of the creatures that we found during the replanting effort: The …

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