Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
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State of the Bay 2017: Eelgrass, Sedimentation, and Climate Change

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  Our State of the Bay 2017 report contains data that the Estuary Program and our partners have collected over the years. We release this report every three years to answer common questions about the health of Morro Bay and its watershed. Last week’s blog post discussed the condition of water quality in the bay and creeks. This week, we address eelgrass, sedimentation, and climate change. Eelgrass: Tracking Current Conditions Eelgrass is a blooming underwater grass that puts down roots in sandy soils. Its long blades form an underwater forest, offering wildlife a place to rest, find food, and spawn. …

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State of the Bay 2017: Bay and Creek Water Quality

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    As a science-based organization, an important focus of the Estuary Program is to collect monitoring data that will inform our management decisions. As part of this process, we compile and analyze data every three years to create an environmental report card called the State of the Bay. Our 2017 report contains data that the Estuary Program and our partners have collected over the years. In this series of posts, we present some of the highlights from the State of the Bay 2017 report. This first post discusses water quality in the bay and local creeks. The second post …

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Field Updates February 2017

Carolyn does a test planting using bamboo garden stakes as an anchor and twine to mimic 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 February. Sediment monitoring February was a quieter month for sediment monitoring, compared to January. We monitored two storms on Walters Creek in February, and we spent plenty of time processing sample bottles at our lab at Cuesta College, trying to empty them for future rounds of monitoring. Karissa went out with Catie, our Communications and Outreach Intern, to pick up bottles from …

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Sea Otters and Morro Bay

A mother sea otter and her pup float on Morro Bay above a seagrass bed.

  If you’ve walked the Embarcadero and stopped by the South T-pier recently, you may have noticed a lot of otters in the water. In a recent interview with KSBY, Mike Harris, Senior Environmental Scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said that prior to 2010 there were typically fewer than 10 sea otters in Morro Bay. In May of last year, a record 36 adults and 9 pups were counted. (Fun fact: a group of sea otters in the water is called a raft.) KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News   Sea otter …

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What to Read to Keep Up on the Weather

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  Rainfall totals impact the estuary. Lack of rainfall increases the salt content in bay, since less fresh water is flowing into it. Large storms send an influx of fresh water down streams, decreasing salinity levels and sending sediment out to the bay. Because of this, we keep an eye on the weather and its impact on the estuary. Sometimes, that means heading out during a break in the storm to check sediment monitoring equipment, like the two staff members below just did.   If you don’t have monitoring equipment to check on, we recommend staying inside this weekend. If you …

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Stormwater Runoff and Morro Bay

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    We’ve had a lot of opportunity lately to watch the rain come down. After it hits the ground, though, where does it go? Stormwater sometimes runs down a gutter before flowing into the street. It joins water that is running off other streets and sidewalks, and makes its way into a storm drain like this one. It picks up natural debris, like leaves and sticks, as well as anything else in its path. That water eventually drains out into Morro Bay. To keep yourself safe from fast-flowing water and higher bacteria levels, it’s a good idea to stay out …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Bat Rays

Estuary Program Monitoring staff got a good view of this bat ray while monitoring eelgrass beds.

  Bat rays (Myliobatis californica) are a key predator along the coast of California and Oregon. They can grow to six feet wide and weigh as much as 200 pounds, though most rays are smaller than this. The largest ray caught off the coast of California was recorded at 181 pounds. These fish eat a variety of foods including mollusks (like abalone and clams), invertebrates (like crabs), and some smaller fishes. They dig up clams by flapping their pectoral fins, which look like wings, to create suction, and then rooting in the sand with their snouts. Rays crush the clams whole, …

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Photo Friday: Watching the Rain

Chorro Creek at Canet Road was at 6 feet on Thursday, January 19.

  This winter has been exciting for weather watchers across California. The Morro Bay watershed received almost four inches of rain in the month of December, and January has started out wet, too. We are currently experiencing the effects of an atmospheric river—a long, narrow section of the atmosphere that transports a large amount of moisture. Local weather forecasts predict that Sunday, January 22, will be the biggest storm yet. We’ve been keeping an eye on the sky and paying close attention to the streams that are transporting all of this precipitation to the estuary. Below, you’ll find images of the …

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December Field Updates, 2016

This horn shark hid in the eelgrass bed at State Park Marina as the tide receded. Horn sharks aren’t known for their speed and graceful swimming. Rather, they move slowly and like to hide among crevices in rocks, in kelp, and in eelgrass beds like this one was doing.

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. Eelgrass Monitoring 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 transect in 2012. In December, we monitored two of these transects along with our other surveys. …

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Director’s Letter: A Window on the Bay

We sometimes see mother otters with pups on their chests floating by.

    Lexie Bell has been with the Estuary Program for more than six years. 2016 was her first full year as Executive Director, and it’s been a year full of progress and inspiring partnerships. Below, you’ll find Lexie’s reflections on the past year and her hopes for the year to come.   Hello Friends, Have you visited our office lately? Our work here at the Estuary Program has a lot of perks (paddleboarding for science, anyone?), but one of the most immediate is the simple pleasure of looking out our office window. The view of the bay is stunning …

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