Oct 29, 2016

2016 Volunteers of the Year



Our volunteers are very special people, with a wide range of interests and talents. They paddle out in the wee hours of the morning to measure dissolved oxygen content in the bay, take plankton samples from local piers, get muddy monitoring water quality in local creeks, provide indispensable advice through our boards and committees, welcome visitors in to our Nature Center, and much more.

We are thankful for them all throughout the year, and we have the opportunity to thank them in person each fall, at our Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. This year, we gathered at the Old School House in Los Osos for a pizza party and free raffle of items donated by local businesses.

Volunteers peruse the raffle table, filled with gifts from local businesses to recognize the great work they do for our bay.
Raffle items were donated by local businesses that recognize the great work these volunteers do for our bay.


We also had the chance to recognize this year’s incredibly dedicated volunteers of the year. Here’s a little more about them.


Monitoring Volunteer of the Year

Karen Watts

Karen stands at Windy Cove.
Karen stands on the edge of the mud flats at Windy Cove.

Karen has always felt the pull of the ocean. In 1991, Karen and her husband packed up their life in San Mateo and spent a year sailing in Mexico. They stopped in Morro Bay on their way down the coast and fell in love with the area. After finishing their trip, they returned to Morro Bay and bought a house. They kept the house even after a move to the Los Angeles area, where Karen taught high school science and biotechnology, until she and her husband retired to Morro Bay in 2006.

Karen became a bacteria volunteer with the Estuary Program in 2007. She has always been passionate about estuary ecology and felt that this was a great fit with her prior lab experience. Over the years, Karen has volunteered over 325 hours with the Estuary Program. In addition to bacteria monitoring, she has helped plant eelgrass, monitor our creeks, and share the wonders of microscopic organisms living in the bay with people at different events.

What Karen enjoys most about volunteering for the Estuary Program is that it gets her outside and helps her take the time to appreciate the things that drew her to Morro Bay in the first place. She enjoys making a contribution to the health of the estuary and getting the opportunity to educate people about the Estuary Program when they see her taking bacteria samples. We can always count on Karen to make time for volunteering and to collect high-quality data. We are very lucky to have her as one of our volunteers.


Community Volunteer of the Year

Charlotte Kelley

Charlotte Kelley holds up a fish she caught while on a trip in Iowa.


Charlotte Kelley loves water and many of the recreational activities that come with it. You’ll often find her out rowing on the bay, birding, or fishing. After retiring from working as a geriatric nurse practitioner—a career she loved—in Iowa, she moved to beautiful Morro Bay.

She decided to volunteer with the Estuary Program to monitor bacteria in the bay in the spring of 2014. Bacteria monitoring requires a special set of skills, including lab experience, extreme attention to detail, and a love of being outdoors. Charlotte’s passion for being out on the water combined with her years of experience in the healthcare field made the position a perfect match for her.

As Charlotte has continued on working with the Estuary Program, she has taken on more volunteer roles and responsibilities. She is a stand-out docent in our Nature Center, making visitors from around the globe feel welcome while helping them to understand what makes the Morro Bay estuary such a special place. She has even helped out at Estuary Program booths at festivals, talking with local children about water conservation and stewardship.

Charlotte loves volunteering because it gives her the chance to get involved with her community, to get outside, and to “do something that means something.” We admire Charlotte’s passion for Morro Bay, her commitment to recording highly accurate data, her natural talent for teaching, and her ability to add some sunshine to everyone’s day.

Thank you to all of our volunteers who help us protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary!

If you would like to volunteer with us, please visit our Volunteer page to see what opportunities we offer.

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