Nov 24, 2023

Thank You to Our Volunteers!

The Estuary Program brings together local governments, nonprofits, agencies, landowners, and the community to protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary and the lands that surround it. Integral to this mission is a dedicated group of volunteers who gather data and provide support that further our monitoring, restoration, education, and outreach efforts.  

Estuary Program volunteers support our program in many different ways. These water quality volunteers are conducting monthly monitoring on a local creek to help us track long-term trends in watershed health.

Volunteers by the Numbers

For over two decades, volunteers have played a major role at the Estuary Program. Volunteers take active roles on our governing board, participate in water quality and restoration efforts, help with watershed cleanups, and restock pet waste bag dispensers in Morro Bay and Los Osos.  

Volunteer Monitoring Program 

Our monitoring program relies on the support of a corps of twenty volunteers who help out each month. Some monitor water temperature and dissolved oxygen to track the ability of the bay and creeks to support sensitive aquatic life. Others collect and analyze samples for indicator bacteria to determine whether the waters are safe for swimming. 

Volunteers support the Estuary Program’s monitoring efforts in several capacities, including monthly indicator bacteria monitoring. Students from Cuesta College collect samples from creek and bay sites and analyze them to determine if the waters are safe for swimming.

In addition to our monthly volunteers, we also have support from seasonal volunteers. These volunteers help with bioassessment, invasive plants, and sediment. During 2023, we had 24 volunteers for bioassessment, four for invasive plant monitoring, and two for sediment monitoring. In 2023, our Volunteer Monitoring Program had 50 volunteers across all monitoring projects logging a total of 705 hours. 

Volunteers support Estuary Program staff on seasonal efforts like monitoring to track sediment accumulation in the tidal marsh. This work helps us better understand the impacts of sea level rise on this fragile habitat.

Wetland Restoration Volunteers 

In October 2021, the Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation District (CSLRCD) completed a restoration project on an 80-acre wetland near the confluence of Los Osos and Warden Creeks. Unfortunately the heavy rains of early 2023 took a toll on the project site. This resulted in erosion and the loss of newly planted trees and shrubs. This fall the Estuary Program partnered with the CSLRCD to recruit restoration volunteers to help address these issues. 

In partnership with the CSLRCD, the Estuary Program hosted two volunteer restoration events and one student field trip at the Los Osos Wetland Restoration Project.

In total, 55 community members volunteered their time at the Los Osos Wetland Restoration Project. These hard-working folks planted 190 native seedlings, built 157 cages to protect plants, removed over 120 pounds of invasive plants, spread three pounds of native wildflower seed, and much more. 

Mutts for the Bay Volunteers

Our dedicated group of sixteen Mutts for the Bay volunteers stock our 36 pet waste bag dispensers throughout Morro Bay and Los Osos. Collectively, they contributed 384 hours in 2023 and helped prevent thousands of pounds of bacteria from impacting our local waterways. Their dedication and generosity with their time makes this program possible. 

Additionally, the program has the financial support of twenty-two community sponsors, the San Luis Obispo County Stormwater Program, and the Harold J. Miossi Charitable Trust. The Miossi Trust provides a grant to the Mutts for the Bay program to support the purchase of dispensers and bags as well as the development and sharing of educational messaging to help pet owners protect the environment.  

The generous support of our dispenser sponsors and volunteers helps ensure that pet waste bags are available throughout Morro Bay and Los Osos.

Beach Cleanup Volunteers

This year the Estuary Program hosted six cleanup events around the estuary. In total, 143 volunteers came out to help keep our watershed clean. The most common types of trash were cigarette butts and single-use plastics. A big thank you to all of the volunteers who came out to help. Stay tuned for more opportunities in 2024!

In August, we held a cleanup event at Cloisters Park in Morro Bay in partnership with Woods Humane Society to help keep this dog-friendly park clean for humans, wildlife, and pets.

Governing Board Volunteers 

Our program is overseen by the Bay Foundation of Morro Bay, a nonprofit all-volunteer board. This group of nine dedicated individuals meets monthly to review workplans and budgets, oversee the finances, and help guide the strategic direction of the organization. Their behind-the-scenes work allows the Estuary Program to apply for and accept grants, hire staff, enter into contracts, and conduct the other essential functions that are crucial to support the organization’s mission. 

Volunteers of the Year

Each year we highlight one or two outstanding volunteers for their contribution to our program. Our 2023 Volunteers of the Year are George and Carol, restoration volunteers who have contributed nearly 70 hours since starting with us in 2022.  

George and Carol are two of our invasive plant restoration volunteers. Each month, they paddle over to the sand spit to monitor for and remove invasive European sea lavender (Limonium duriusculum). If this plant has a chance to get established, it can crowd out more ecologically beneficial native species. To date, George and Carol have helped remove 83 invasive sea lavender plants from the tidal marsh.  

George and Carol out monitoring the sand spit for invasive sea lavender. If they find any, they remove the plant by hand, being careful that no seeds or roots are left behind.

George and Carol moved to Morro Bay full time in 2021 and quickly got involved in environmental stewardship efforts. Both volunteer for the Elfin Forest, Sweet Springs Nature Preserve, the Morro Bay Bird Festival, and Save Cuesta Inlet.  

George is a retired children’s librarian and an avid fly fisherman who enjoys fisheries volunteer work. Carol is a retired a junior high math teacher who continues her teaching career at the Elfin Forest as a volunteer docent.  

When they aren’t out birdwatching, hiking, or traveling to visit family and friends, Carol weaves on small looms, crochets, and knits, and George woodworks. They prioritize sharing their time outdoors with their seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.  

George and Carol with family in Hawai’i. Photo courtesy of George and Carol.

Thank you, Carol and George, for all that you do for our community and to help protect our tidal marsh!

Help us protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary!