Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
MBNEP

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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Celebrating the Complexity of the Morro Bay Estuary

The back bay is totally inundated at this high king tide.

  National Estuaries Week runs through September 23 and celebrates the benefit we reap from our thriving coastal ecosystems. This has us thinking about how complex and special estuary ecosystems and the wildlife that thrives here are. Estuaries are places of transition. The salty tides wash in and out over the mud flats, inundating the marsh and mixing with the freshwater influx from upland streams. The plants and animals that live in the estuary and the habitats that border its edges have special adaptations to survive these changes. The time-lapse video above shows a complete twelve-hour tidal cycle in Morro Bay. (Video …

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Coastal Cleanup Day 2017

Here is a picture of the whole wonderful cleanup crew for 2017.

  Today was the 31st Coastal Cleanup Day. This international event is the largest annual volunteer event in California, and the Estuary Program is always happy to work with volunteers to pick up trash on the Morro Bay sandspit. This morning’s group of volunteers gathered early at Morro Bay Landing to hear from Sylvia, a California State Parks representative, about how snowy plovers use the sandspit and what we can do to help protect them. These small shorebirds are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and as a bird of special concern for the State of California. Morro Bay’s sandspit …

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Photograph Friday: Fieldwork Before Sunrise

The crew of staff and volunteers harvested eelgrass in their assigned locations as the sun rose over Morro Bay. The crew of staff and volunteers harvested eelgrass in their assigned locations as the sun rose over Morro Bay.

“Time and tide will wait for no man, saith the adage. But all men have to wait for time and tide.” —Charles Dickens, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit   This saying about the inevitable march of time and the seasons can be traced back to the 1200s, but it felt very relevant at 5:00 this morning when Estuary Program staff and a few stout-hearted and warmly-dressed volunteers ventured out to the beach near Target Rock. There, we began the second round of the small-scale eelgrass transplant project that began back in March. Before setting the date for work to begin, staff had to monitor …

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Photo Friday: Nature Photography Day in Morro Bay

The Morro Bay watershed is a wonderful place to stop, smell, and photograph wildflowers.

    June 15 is Nature Photography Day, which encourages people to get outside and explore the natural world with their cameras in hand. The Morro Bay estuary and the lands that surround it inspire many photographers and other artists to practice their craft. In honor of Nature Photography Day and the beauty of Morro Bay, we’re sharing some of our recent photos from around the bay and watershed. Western fence lizards, also called blue bellied lizards, are very common in California. One reason to take note of them is that they have a protein in their blood that kills the bacteria that …

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Field Updates May 2017: Bioassessment Surveys

Just three of our twenty-one great volunteers.

    As you know, 2017 has been a little rainy. Since the start of the 2017 water year, the county rain gauge at Camp SLO received 33.29″ of rain. This exciting water year has so far kept our staff busy collecting sediment samples, doing site checks to see if our equipment was still there and anxiously waiting for flows to subside to levels safe enough to monitor. This has also been enough rain to keep more sites wetted enough to conduct bioassessment surveys on. After a few years of only conducting about 5–7 surveys, for 2017 we had 12 …

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Sea Star Wasting Syndrome 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 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. Now …

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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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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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