Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
national estuary program

Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Swell Shark

Swell shark closeup by Josh More, via Flickr.

    Movies like Jaws and Sharknado can make sharks seem like mindless killing machines—even the dramatic music typically used to accompany footage of sharks has been shown to affect our perception of them. Despite their deadly pop culture image, the more scientists study sharks, the more they find that humans are not their intended prey. While species like great whites might “sample bite” humans, they rarely pursue people after that first bite. In fact, many shark attacks seem to be a case of mistaken identity, where the shark takes a surfer, paddler, or swimmer for a sea lion or …

Continue Reading

Field Updates June 2017

This dragonfly landed on a tree leaf, allowing us to see its intricate wing detail up close.

See what our volunteers and staff have been working on in the bay and watershed during the past month. Bioassessment The 2017 Bioassessment field season extended from April all the way into June. In June, we completed the final two surveys and then shipped off our bugs to the lab! We expect to have the bug scores sometime in the fall. One of our last surveys was on Upper Chorro Creek. The riparian corridor was teeming with dragonflies. Dragonflies are in the Order Odonata, which vary greatly in their tolerance level. Though the presence of these primitive creatures doesn’t necessarily …

Continue Reading

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 …

Continue Reading

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 …

Continue Reading

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, …

Continue Reading

From Morro Bay to New Orleans, Estuary Programs Make a Difference

Marshland in Plaquemines Parish is disappearing quickly as waves and currents wash land away.

  This past week, Executive Director Lexie Bell and Communications & Outreach Coordinator Rachel Pass journeyed all the way to New Orleans, Louisiana. There, they met with staff from the 27 other National Estuary Programs across the country and toured the local Barataria-Terrebonne estuary. National connections Congress established the National Estuary Program in 1987 through the Clean Water Act. There are currently 28 estuaries in the country included in the non-regulatory program. Each of these estuary programs works to address critical water quality issues in their area. National Estuary Programs protect bays big and small. Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay, …

Continue Reading

Help Morro Bay on World Oceans Day

DSCF1038

    Estuaries are places where the salt water of the sea meets fresh water from the land. Because of this connection, the health of both the oceans and creeks can make a difference for our bay.   We invite you to help keep Morro Bay healthy by participating in World Oceans Day next Wednesday, June 8. This year, we’re focusing on ways to help keep plastics out of our waterways. We know that plastic waste can cause big problems for wildlife and water quality in the ocean. As it biodegrades into ever smaller particles, it attracts toxins and can …

Continue Reading

Be a Citizen Scientist

This years King Tides combined with the higher sea levels experienced during El Nino covered the stairs at Tidelands park.

    If you are curious about the natural world, scientists need your help! Citizen science projects harness the power of interested people to gather data for use in important research. Many of these projects ask people to observe and document the plants, animals, or natural phenomena around them with a camera or smart phone, whenever they wish. Others require more specific training, or ask for in-person participation. Our own Monitoring program uses data gathered by citizen scientist volunteers and staff members to keep an eye on long-term trends in water quality, bacteria levels, and other factors that influence stream …

Continue Reading