Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
morro bay

Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: California Two Spot Octopus

  The octopus is a creature that captures our imaginations. It has been doing so for thousands of years across many different cultures. Octopi were a common motif on pottery in ancient Greece and beyond. Octopi also made appearances in other historical art pieces, such as this woodcut from 18th Century Japan. More recently, the octopus made an animated splash in the film Finding Dory, where seven-tentacled Hank becomes quite the hero. Hank is based on the mimic octopus, which can change its shape and behavior to mimic other marine animals in order to avoid predators. (No wonder these creatures have …

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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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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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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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Field Updates April 2017

  Fulfilling our mission to protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary for people and animals requires a lot of hard work in the field. Today, we’re bringing you our first set of monthly field updates to show you what our staff and volunteers are doing on the ground. Bioassessment Field Surveys April was a busy month for our field staff. Our bioassessment season kicked off on Saturday, April 8th with our annual training. We had 27 volunteers attend this training to learn how to collect macroinvertebrate samples and conduct creek habitat assessments. Each of these surveys take approximately four hours …

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Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest 2017 Winners

A view of Morro Rock over a long stretch of dunes on the sandspit.

    Every year, the Estuary Program holds a poetry contest focused on the bay and watershed. We always include a haiku category, since haiku are traditionally focused on nature. We also include a free verse category with an annual theme. This year, we asked our free-verse-writers to read our State of the Bay report and to focus on any of the issues or ideas discussed in it. Estuary Program staff and our wonderful guest judges were impressed with the response and the work that we received. A record 121 entries came in before the deadline, and it was very difficult to choose …

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Pelican Release on Morro Bay with Pacific Wildlife Care

The pelican swam away toward a flock that had gathered on the bay side of the sandspit.

    From time to time, we get calls from people who have found an injured or sick bird near the bay. They’re concerned and want to help, but they’re not sure what to do. We are lucky to be able to direct these people to Pacific Wildlife Care, a local nonprofit that has been helping San Luis Obispo wildlife for the past thirty years. This winter, Estuary Program Communications & Outreach Coordinator Rachel Pass got one of these calls. This time, it was from her mom, Lynn, who was visiting from out of town. She had been out for …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Innkeeper Worm

    Mudflats can look barren, though they’re anything but. They are composed of fine sediment that settles out of the water, building up over many years. Mudflats often form along the edges of estuaries, like Morro Bay, that are protected by a sandspit. The slow moving, shallow waters near the shore allow organic material to linger as it breaks down, making mudflats especially nutrient rich.  This allows these flat expanses to host a lot of life. Another interesting feature of mudflats is that they are sometimes submerged and sometimes exposed, all depending on the tides. The animals that live …

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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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