Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
Morro Bay National Estuary Program

How to Watch Sea Otters in Morro Bay (Without The Sea Otters Watching You!)

The best sea otter picture is one where the sea otters aren’t looking at the camera because they don’t even know you’re there. The photographer who captured this shot stayed quiet and kept far enough away from the otters so they could carry on resting, as they need to do to stay healthy.

  This blog is part of our series, Be Sea Otter Savvy, written by Gena Bentall, Director and Senior Scientist for Sea Otter Savvy.  As COVID-19 travel restrictions begin to ease after more than a year, many people are heading to California’s Central Coast. Morro Bay’s beautiful scenery and wildlife continue to draw visitors and locals to its shores. While we’re there, watching the waves wash over the sand and the sea otters play, we can do our part to help keep this incredible place as gorgeous, healthy, and wild as it is today for years to come. In this …

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Snapshot Cal Coast 2021: Calling All Community Scientists to Document Morro Bay’s Diversity

    Most of California, and the entire California coast, is identified as a Global Biodiversity Hotspot, called the California Floristic Province. Like the other Global Hotspots, this area has a high number of species that are endemic, meaning that they are native to this area and are found nowhere else. Every year, The California Academy of Sciences (CAS) asks people to document this extreme biodiversity through a bioblitz event called Snapshot Cal Coast. During the bioblitz, citizen scientists use iNaturalist to document all of the flora and fauna that they find in a specific coastal location. This year, the sixth …

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Field Updates May 2021: Spring Eelgrass Monitoring

Makenzie, our Monitoring Projects Coordinator, at our site located on the Sandspit. Staff access the site via stand up paddle boards

  A quick introduction… Hi everyone! My name is Bret, and I am the new Monitoring Projects Manager for the Estuary Program. I’m a recent transplant from the Midwest, but the West Coast has been calling to me for quite some time. As I get settled here in Morro Bay, I look forward to learning more about our estuary as well as how to be a steward of our watershed. I arrived in Morro Bay at the beginning of April, just in time for bioassessment (you can read more about bioassessment in our April Field Updates blog post). I really …

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Photograph Friday: Wildlife in the Morro Bay Estuary Watershed

An adult California newt stands on rocks in a stream in the Morro Bay estuary watershed. It is orange with yellow eyes.

  Morro Bay estuary and watershed provide habitat for a wide range of species You never know what amazing wildlife you’ll see in, on, or around the Morro Bay estuary. This area is a biological diversity hot spot, meaning that we have a wide range of species that are native to this area, including some species that are found nowhere else in the world, like the Morro kangaroo rat and the Morro manzanita. Morro Bay Estuary and Watershed Biodiversity Project on iNaturalist To get an idea of the range of species that live in the Morro Bay estuary and surrounding …

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MORRO BAY WATERSHED NATIVE PLANT SERIES: Estuarine and Salt Marsh

    Our final post in the Morro Bay Watershed Native Plant series will explore the estuarine and salt marsh plant communities that make up the unique estuarine environment of Morro Bay. Not sure what a plant community is? Take a look at our introductory post to the Morro Bay Native Plant Series, an exploration of our watershed’s diverse native flora! Relationship between the estuary and salt marsh An estuary is a place where freshwater meets the sea. In Morro Bay, the freshwater creeks and streams from our watershed drain into and mix with the salty seawater of the bay. …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Striped Shore Crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes)

a striped shore crab peeks out from under a rock.

Striped shore crab identification and habitat What striped shore crabs look like The striped shore crab is a type of crustacean, about one to two inches (or 3 to 5 centimeters) wide.  Their carapace (i.e. hard, upper shell) is a very dark purple, red, or even green, and lined with bright yellow-green stripes. Though this color combination makes striped shore crabs eye catching when you see them out in the open, it helps them disappear into dark, rocky crevices where they hide amongst sea lettuce, rock weed, and bits of kelp. Its pincers, also known as chelae, are often a …

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Field Updates April 2021: Bioassessment Highlights and Volunteer Support

Staff member holds a rock during bioassessment

    What is bioassessment? For those of you unfamiliar with this effort, our annual spring bioassessment is our largest survey effort of the year. This survey effort focuses on the biological assessment of ten local creeks within the Morro Bay watershed, using an evaluation protocol created by the Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP) and the State of California. Bioassessment surveys utilize a number of different criteria to assess creek health, with the primary focus being the assessment of benthic macroinvertebrates (BMIs). BMIs can be used as a proxy to determine stream health, since the abundance or absence of …

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Cleaning Up Trash On Morro Bay’s Beaches: A Volunteer’s Story

Bar cans crushed and shoved between rocks in the rip rap.

Guest Post by Lily Newton Keeping local beaches clean and beautiful When I first moved to the Central Coast area a little over two years ago, one of the first things that struck me was how scenic and clean the local beaches were. Looking back now, the Texas Gulf Coast beaches that I had grown up visiting were a far cry from pristine, often cluttered with plastic waste and suffering from many other signs of damage from frequent use. Now that I call Los Osos and Morro Bay home, keeping this area as scenic and beautiful as it was when …

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MORRO BAY WATERSHED NATIVE PLANT SERIES: Riparian Plant Communities

    This series of native plant blog posts has explored the different plants found throughout the Morro Bay watershed. A watershed is an area where freshwater creeks and streams flow from higher ground down towards the ocean. Riparian zone plants reach deep when streams run dry In the Morro Bay Watershed, some creeks and streams flow year round, and some don’t. Even though they’re not full of water, dry creek beds are still bordered by vegetation. This is due to the presence of groundwater, which is water that exists beneath Earth’s surface in soil pore spaces (the space between …

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Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest 2021: A National Treasure in Words

Every year, we invite writers near and far to compose poetry focused on the Morro Bay estuary and surrounding lands for our Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest: A National Treasure in Words. The contest is open now through May 7, and writers age 8 and up can enter. Find the complete details on our Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest 2021 page. 2021 Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest themes This year, we are looking for haiku on the theme “Morro Bay estuary and watershed” and free verse poems of up to 45 lines that explore the idea of finding solace in …

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