Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
morro bay national estuary program

From the Director’s Desk: State of the Bay Update

Our Earth Day Pickup and Paddle event drew a wonderful crowd of volunteers who cleaned up the bay and shoreline by paddleboard.

    From the Director’s Desk is a twice-yearly blog series, written by Executive Director Lexie Bell. Lexie plans and directs the program’s work, and collaborates with the Estuary Program’s many partners to expand our collective success in the watershed. Lexie first began working in Morro Bay as a graduate student at the UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. Her graduate work analyzed the economic impact of visitors’ perceptions of environmental quality in Morro Bay. In addition to her Master’s degree, Lexie graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science and Biology. Previously, …

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What Estuary Program stories compel you?

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  The Estuary Program blog turns one at the end of January! In this first year, we’ve been happy to bring you an in-depth look at our projects, program updates, information about bay-friendly living, stories about people who are making a difference, and ideas for fun activities that you can do around the estuary. If you missed any of our posts, you can catch up by scrolling down our main blog page. If you’re looking for the highlights, here are links to our top five posts of 2015:   1. Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest Winners 2015 Each year, we ask poets …

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Looking Back Over 2015

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  2015 was a big year for the Morro Bay National Estuary Program. In the following post, Adrienne Harris, current Executive Director, and Joel Neel, Bay Foundation Board President, look back over the year.    A Message from the President and Executive Director In our community, we have a long history of working to protect Morro Bay, our estuary. This effort has taken many forms over the decades, but all with the same goal, to protect the special nature of this place. Morro Bay was designated as a State Estuary in 1994, and the Morro Bay National Estuary Program was …

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Great Family-Friendly Hikes Around the Estuary

The boardwalk path through the elfin forest winds through eight different habitat types, and offers beautiful views of the estuary.

  It can be hard to find family-friendly hikes, but we’re lucky to have quite a few to choose from around Morro Bay. Here are a few that allow you to enjoy views of the estuary with your holiday guests! Marina Peninsula Trail This accessible boardwalk trail is only .5 miles long, and it begins close to the parking lot at the Morro Bay State Park Marina. It winds through a variety of habitats, and offers views of the Morros, the salt marsh, the mud flats, the sandspit, the estuary, and Morro Rock. Your view will be different depending on …

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Clean Water, Great Life – Bay Water Quality Update Part II

Volunteers monitor DO levels in the early morning hours because that is typically when we find the lowest levels of the day.

  The Morro Bay estuary is a special place that is central to many of our lives, providing a beautiful place to live, work, and visit. We play in these waters and enjoy the food they provide. These waters are also home to countless species of plants, fish, and invertebrates. The monitoring efforts of the Estuary Program and its volunteers help to determine if Morro Bay provides clean waters that can support sensitive marine life, as well as activities such as swimming, boating and fishing. Last week, we looked at what the Estuary Program’s monitoring efforts can tell us about …

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Clean Water, Great Life: Creek Water Quality Update

Monitoring Coordinator, Karissa, checks dissolved oxygen levels in Chorro Creek.

  The Morro Bay watershed, the area of land that drains into the estuary, is a special place. Our watershed’s creeks provide valuable habitat to aquatic life, including iconic steelhead. These fish are anadromous, meaning they are born in freshwater, such as our watershed creeks, and then venture out to the ocean. After several years in the ocean, they return to the creeks where they were born to spawn and continue the life cycle.   Here on the Central Coast, we are host to a distinct population of steelhead known as the South Central California Coast Steelhead.   The formerly …

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Give a Day for the Bay Success by the Numbers

We picked up 18 pounds of trash from the sandspit, which is essential habitat for many birds, including the snowy plover.

  Our Give a Day for the Bay volunteer campaign came to a close this past weekend, and we are very happy with the results! Here is a breakdown by the numbers: 6 partner organizations offered volunteer opportunities to benefit the bay. 10 cleanups happened, with 9 along the water’s edge, and 1 under the water. 192 volunteers gave a total of 572.5 hours to keeping Morro Bay clean and healthy! Thank you partners and volunteers for your hard work! Below, you’ll find pictures of Give a Day for the Bay volunteers in action. Enjoy!   Tsunami Debris Cleanup on the Sandspit at Montana de Oro …

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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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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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