Dec 09, 2022

Volunteer Appreciation: Thank You to Our Community

We have so much to be grateful for here at the Estuary Program. At this time of year, we reflect on the volunteers that give their time, energy, and resources to help us protect and restore Morro Bay and the lands that surround it. 

Volunteers by the Numbers

Our program’s success is greatly due to strong community support. Volunteers serve as members on our governing board, restock dogwaste bag dispensers, and act as our eyes on the water to track conditions in the bay and watershed. These hard-working folks have contributed countless hours towards furthering our mission and enhancing this bay that we all love. 

Volunteers support the Estuary Program’s mission by helping us track the health of the bay and watershed. The photo above shows two Cuesta College student volunteers collecting a water sample at Tidelands Park in Morro Bay.

Volunteer Monitoring Program

Each month, volunteers collect data from creek and bay sites as a part of the Estuary Program’s Volunteer Monitoring Program. Volunteers conduct water quality monitoring, bacteria sampling, and analysis, invasive plant monitoring, and support our spring bioassessment effort. 

Estuary Program volunteers support our Volunteer Monitoring Program by acting as our boots-on-the-ground community scientists. The photo above shows a volunteer conducting an invasive plant survey near Morro Bay State Park.

In 2022, we had 37 volunteers donate over 370 hours to our Volunteer Monitoring Program. Creek and bay water quality volunteers made up the bulk of these hours, with just shy of 200 volunteer hours contributed by 14 volunteers. For spring bioassessment, 13 volunteers contributed nearly 80 hours of time. Our six bacteria volunteers contributed about 66 hours. And our four invasive plant volunteers accounted for about 33 hours. 

Mutts for the Bay Volunteers

This year we added three new volunteers to our Mutts for the Bay program. Our dedicated group of 16 volunteers help us stock our 34 dogwaste bag dispensers throughout Morro Bay and Los Osos. Collectively, they volunteered 384 hours in 2022 and helped to keep these bags available to prevent thousands of pounds of bacteria out of our bay.  

One of the Mutts for the Bay dispensers stocked by volunteers at North Point in Morro Bay.

In addition to these volunteers, we have over 21 community sponsors that donate to help keep an individual dispenser stocked throughout the year. If you’re interested in sponsoring one of our available dispensers you can fill out the interest form here, and we will reach out when a dispenser is available. Another option is to donate to the program. We would also like to thank the Harold J. Miossi Charitable Trust for their generous grant to support the Mutts for the Bay program. All donations and grant funding support direct costs like bag purchases, dispenser maintenance, and educational efforts to help spread a clean water message.

By picking up after your dog, you can help prevent bacteria growth in the bay.

Volunteers of the Year

Each year we highlight one or two outstanding volunteers for their contribution to our program. Our 2022 Volunteer of the Year award goes to two of our long-time water quality volunteers, Bert and Gary, who have contributed nearly 200 volunteer hours since starting with us in early 2017. The two have become good friends and also volunteer together for Sea Life Stewards, a kayak-based docent program that aims to reduce human-caused wildlife disturbance in the bay.  

Bert and Gary are partner volunteers for the Estuary Program and for Sea Life Stewards. The photo above shows Bert, paddling in Morro Bay while volunteering for Sea Life Stewards. Photo courtesy of Gary.

Gary is a retired geophysicist, world traveler, and environmentalist. Gary found the Estuary Program after volunteering for the Marine Mammal Center in Morro Bay. Throughout his time with the Estuary Program, Gary has continued to volunteer with the Mammal Center as well as a number of other local organizations including Pacific Wildlife Care and the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) volunteer program. Outside of volunteering, you can find Gary paddling in the bay or practicing his steering on the Morro Bay Dragonboat. 

Gary, pictured above, also volunteers for a number of local organizations, including the Marine Mammal Center and Pacific Wildlife Care. Photo courtesy of Gary.

Like Gary, Bert is a passionate environmentalist. Prior to retirement, Bert worked for the California Energy Commission, where he developed alternative energy and energy efficiency programs. About ten years ago Bert moved to Morro Bay from the foothills of Yosemite. He’s found that living by the water has had a positive impact on his body, mind, and soul. In addition to volunteering with the Estuary Program and Sea Life Stewards, Bert spends his free time doing martial arts, kickboxing, hiking, and paddleboarding. 

Bert, pictured above, has been volunteering for the Estuary Program since 2017.

Thank you, Bert and Gary, for all that you do for our community! We value your contributions and are so grateful for your dedication to our program! 

Getting Involved

While the Estuary Program does not currently have any open volunteer positions, we encourage those interested to check out our volunteer page for upcoming opportunities. You can also check out our community science projects on our website to learn how you can support the Estuary Program projects. 

Stay in the loop by following us on Instagram (@morrobaynep), subscribing to our blog, or by visiting our events page.  

Dawn Patrol volunteer, Mike Milanesi, kayaking on the bay.

Thank you to our volunteers and community for all that you do for the Morro Bay estuary!

Help us protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary!  

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