Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
estuary program

Help Scientists See the Future in King Tides

The boat ramp was also inundated by the high water.

  At the Estuary Program office, tides rule much of our work. We plan our eelgrass monitoring surveys around them. We schedule our dawn patrol and bay bacteria volunteer sessions based on them. We watch as boats, birds, and marine mammals move with the pull of the high and low tides outside our office windows. King Tides are the highest tides of the year, and they demand extra attention. Before the boardwalk trail was built at the State Park marina, King Tides regularly inundated the dirt trail along the salt marsh’s edge. They raise docks to their uppermost limits and …

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Giving Thanks at the Morro Bay National Estuary Program

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    At this time of year, many of us are thinking about what we have to be thankful for. At the Estuary Program, our list is long. We appreciate the dozens of volunteers who give hundreds of hours collecting data on the streams and bay, keeping the Mutts for the Bay dog waste bag dispensers stocked, and serving on our board and committees. We are thankful for our partners, past and present, and for the long list of people who came together to establish Morro Bay as an estuary of both state and national significance. We are thankful that …

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Photo Friday: Focus on Water

Water levels in the salt marsh depend on the tides. Here, California horn snails are visible in a pool left behind as the tide went out.

  This is the time of year that we start hoping to see more rain falling along the Central Coast. Rain feeds the creeks that flow into the Morro Bay estuary. Having enough fresh water in those creeks helps fish, other animals, and aquatic plants to grow and thrive. (See this article from local meteorologist John Lindsey for more information on how the drought affects Morro Bay.) Today, we’re paying a photo tribute to water as it moves from creeks, through the salt marsh, and out into the bay.   Creeks     Tidal Channels and Salt Marsh     …

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October Field Updates, 2016

Here, Shane places the quadrat at meter 75 of our 150-meter transect.

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 October.   Fish trawl study We started off the month by helping Cal Poly Professor and California Sea Grant Extension Specialist Dr. Jennifer O’Leary conduct fish trawls in Morro Bay. In 2007, seven different sites around Morro Bay were trawled to catalog what species were present. Now, after the decline of eelgrass beds in the bay, the same sites are being trawled again …

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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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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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iNaturalist: Bringing Technology and Nature Together in Morro Bay

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    In Morro Bay, the natural world surrounds us, no matter where we are. It’s right outside our windows. It lines the paths we walk, bike, and hike. It reminds us just how much life depends on its waters. Nature is why so many of us choose to visit and live in Morro Bay. If you’re the kind of person who loves to be surrounded by nature and who is also interested in science and technology, you might like iNaturalist. It’s a smart phone and tablet app that allows people to upload pictures of the plants and animals they see. …

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Save the date for DogFest 2016

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  Estuary Program staff, like many Central Coast residents, love going out and about with our dogs. We take them to the beach, we bring them hiking, we play with them at local parks, and walk them around town.     Dogs give us many wonderful things like companionship, love, and slobbery kisses. They also give us some stinky things…like an average of 3.5 pounds of poop per week. About 281,000 people live in San Luis Obispo County and more than 62,000 dogs (roughly 1 dog per 4.5 people) make their homes here, with about 5,500 dogs located in Morro …

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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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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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