Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.

Field updates April & May 2019: Monitoring Eelgrass and Creek Health

Field updates April & May 2019: Monitoring Eelgrass and Creek Health

Two members from the Watershed Stewards Program lay out eelgrass blades on a white board for counting and photographing.

 

 

Fieldwork season is in full swing now for us here at the Morro Bay National Estuary Program, and we have been busy hiking around the creeks and estuary to continue monitoring our local watershed. In April and May, we monitored eelgrass and conducted bioassessment monitoring to help us see how healthy our creeks are.

Eelgrass monitoring

Eelgrass monitoring continues as usual when the tides are low enough to let us collect data. This past month, there was a good window spanning multiple days where we were able to monitor for a couple hours each day to check on eelgrass beds located throughout the bay. Despite some sneaky tides that did not fully cooperate as expected, we were able to complete our monitoring at three different eelgrass beds in the bay.

Two members from the Watershed Stewards Program lay out eelgrass blades on a white board for counting and photographing.

Two members from the Watershed Stewards Program lay out eelgrass blades on a white board for counting and photographing.

 

Bioassessment Monitoring

Spring means it is bioassessment season, and we have been very busy conducting full creek surveys throughout the watershed. These surveys measure the overall health of the creek by looking not just at the water quality, but at the creek system as a whole. To learn more about these bioassessment surveys, check out these blog posts.

This year, twenty-four volunteers helped us complete ten surveys in the watershed. Our surveys spanned Chorro Creek and its tributaries, as well as Los Osos Creek. A big thank you to all the volunteers who helped complete these surveys—this would not have been possible without you!

Some of our volunteers at the annual training practice, learning how to analyze stream bed characteristics such as rock size. Volunteers also learned how to set up an autolevel to measure the slope of the stream.

On the left, some of our volunteers learn how to analyze stream bed characteristics such as rock size at the annual bioassessment training practice. Volunteers also learned how to set up an autolevel to measure the slope of the stream.

We collect macroinvertebrates at eleven different locations in the creek, and then send these samples to a lab for sorting, identification, and counting.

A volunteer works to collect all the macroinvertebrates in a one-foot by one-foot section on Pennington Creek.

A volunteer works to collect all of the macroinvertebrates in a one-foot by one-foot section on Pennington Creek.

Certain macroinvertebrates are more sensitive to pollution than others; if we see healthy levels of these sensitive bugs, we know the overall water quality in that part of the creek is good. On the other side of the spectrum, if we see low overall numbers of macroinvertebrates or find mostly species that are less sensitive to pollution, creek health might be compromised. To see how creeks in our watershed looked least year, check out the report on our website.

Enjoy some photos from our surveys!

Two images show volunteers holding and measuring rocks that they have pulled from the stream bed.

We take 105 rock measurements on each survey, so it’s a good thing our volunteers enjoy doing it!

A volunteer squats next to a long stadia rod, which measures the width of the creek. She uses a meter stick to measure the width of a rock.

Volunteers measure rocks.

Tyler, Field Technician, surveys stream height.

Tyler, Estuary Program Field Technician, surveys the stream to figure out its slope.

Weather and rainfall

Luckily the weather cooperated well with our monitoring efforts, even though the rain decided it wasn’t quite done yet for the month. In total, we received 1.75″ during the month of May, as measured by the station on Canet Road located along Highway 1 towards Morro Bay. This brings the total rainfall for the water year to 28.1″ at the same station.

As spring shifts into summer, so do our fieldwork plans. We are very excited to have finished up our bioassessment surveys, and are now looking forward to continuing our eelgrass monitoring throughout the bay. If you missed it in our last field updates blog post, we replanted eelgrass throughout the estuary and it’s time now to check in on it. We’ll let you know what we find out in the next month or two.


Subscribe to our weekly blog to have posts like this delivered to your inbox each week.

Help us protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary!

Thank you for helping our beautiful, bountiful, biodiverse bay!