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Morro Bay National Estuary

New Undescribed Nudibranchs! Two New-to-Science Sea Slugs Recently Spotted on the California Coast.

Aeolid Nudibranchs_copyright Siena McKim

Guest post by Robin Agarwal California has about 180 known species of sea slugs Most of California’s approximately 180 known species of sea slugs (nudibranchs and related species) were described in scientific literature decades ago. Only a handful of these sea slugs are regularly seen and documented, but have not been formally described. These species remain on scientists’ collective “to-do” list, including: Doto Form A of Goddard (1996) One of the most common Dotos on the Southern and Central California coast, its pinkish cerata are covered with white-tipped tubercles. Its rhinophores have a prominent cup-shaped sheath and are tipped with …

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Updates from the Field, September 2021: Eelgrass wrack

Eelgrass wrack

  What’s that washed up on the beach?  Those who spend time in and around Morro Bay may have seen a recent increase in eelgrass washed up near local coastal access points like Pasadena Point, Tidelands Park, or State Park Marina. This washed-up seagrass is known as wrack, and can often accumulate to form a distinctive “wrack-line” along beaches.   Here at the Estuary Program, we’ve had numerous local reports about the increase in wrack. People are asking whether the eelgrass is dying, and whether they should be alarmed at the amount of wrack washing up. Local meteorologist, John Lindsey recently addressed this increase in an article for the San Luis Obispo Tribune.  Why is there …

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Predicting Rain With Tarantula Math: Where folklore meets meteorology

  New Water Year begins on October 1 Water Year 2022 begins Friday, October 1. A water year is a twelve-month period of time that begins October 1 of one calendar year and ends September 30 of the next. The reason that the water year differs from the calendar year is that, in many places, precipitation that falls as snow during the fall and winter creates a snow pack that doesn’t melt until spring or summer. By setting the start of the water year on October 1, scientists can track precipitation from the time it falls as snow in the …

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Sea Otter Awareness Week Quiz

A discriminating eye can identify photos of sea otters that feature natural, undisturbed behaviors. Photo credit Gena Bentall Taken from shore, from 60 meters away, with 300mm zoom. Naps disturbed = 0.

  You might have admired sea otters near Coleman Beach, Morro Rock, or the South T-pier, but how much do you know about Morro Bay’s furriest residents? Since it’s both Sea Otter Awareness Week and National Estuaries Week, it’s a good time to test your knowledge with this quick quiz. (Scroll to the bottom of the blog post for the answers and more fun sea otter information.) Sea Otter Quiz (Scroll down to find the answers to this quiz and more sea otter facts.) How many hairs do sea otters have per square inch of their bodies? Up to 10,000 …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Pyrosoma atlanticum

Copyright Morro Bay National Estuary Program. A child looks at a something they've never seen before on the beach. It is a Pyrosoma atlanticum.

When you visit a beach on California’s Central Coast, you can expect to find certain kinds of organic debris washed ashore. Long, ropy, stalks of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) amass in muted green piles at the high tide line. Knotted lengths of driftwood, smoothed by the rough waves, stud the sand. Bone-white sand dollars adorn wavy lines of seafoam, looking like treasure to beach-going kids. You’ll find the occasional moon jelly of by-the-wind sailor, which are stranding more often this summer due to the prevailing winds and ocean currents. And, on rare occasion, you’ll happen upon something you’ve never seen before. …

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Updates from the Field, August 2021: Red tides, Wildlife, and Volunteering

    Why does the water look red? Have you noticed dark, murky water in or around Morro Bay recently? According to Dr. Ryan K. Walter from Cal Poly, samples retrieved from the Cal Poly pier as well as those collected near the mouth of Morro Bay at Morro Rock have shown abnormally high concentrations of a single-celled phytoplankton dinoflagellate called Akashiwo sanguinea during the month of August. Blooms of phytoplankton like the ones observed from Cal Poly can accumulate to form what is known as a red tide, resulting in murky, often red-appearing water. Red tides are blooms of …

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Meet the SLO Steelhead Initiative Watershed Stewards Program Corps Members

Installation of erosion control fabric to stabilize the left bank of a restoration project in the Santa Rosa Creek Watershed.

Our names are Ryan Blaich and Natt McDonough, and we served as Watershed Stewards Program (WSP) Corps Members under the San Luis Obispo Steelhead Initiative from September 2020 through August 2021. The Watershed Stewards Program is a special program offered through a partnership between the California Conservation Corps and AmeriCorps. WSP Corps Members, like us, work to enhance the health of local watersheds throughout California for the conservation and preservation of anadromous fish species, like steelhead trout and salmon. Life cycle of anadromous fish Anadromous fish are those that hatch and spend their juvenile years in freshwater streams and rivers. …

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Creeks to Coast Cleanup helps Morro Bay and Beyond

Our hills have turned nice and green.

It’s almost time for the annual Creeks to Coast Cleanup September is Coastal Cleanup month. It’s a great time to get outside and take care of Morro Bay’s beaches, the bay itself, and the creeks that feed it. To help everyone take on this task, our friends at ECOSLO host an annual Creeks to Coast Cleanup. This county-wide effort stretches from the upland creeks, down to the lowlands, and out to the sea. Even inland cleanups help our coast It might seem strange to host a coastal cleanup inland, but it makes a lot of sense if you think of …

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Photograph Friday: drought and big storms around the Morro Bay estuary

In the heavy rains of March 2018, the willows and other plants in the restored flood plain at Twin Bridges along with the wide expanse of salt marsh at the waters edge gave the rushing runoff a place to slow down and sink in. Without these natural spaces, flood waters continue on toward the bay in full force and the possibility of increased erosion and damage to infrastructure rises.

    Today, we’re sharing photos that depict drought and large storms, two extremes that are expected to occur more frequently on California’s central coast due to climate change. Historic drought The 2021 water year, which began on October 1, 2020, has been historically dry. The California Department of Water Resources expressed concern about the dry winter conditions back in January 2021. In his Weather Watch column, John Lindsey tackled the future of drought across the state in June 2021, and the Central Coast’s quick dive from a state of Severe Drought to Extreme Drought in July 2021. Big storms …

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Field Updates July 2021: Invasive Sea Lavender Monitoring in the Salt Marsh

Salt marsh channels

    Protecting the salt marsh Morro Bay’s salt marsh is a special area. It is here that our creeks deliver freshwater to the bay, and incoming tides push salty waters up through the marsh’s system of channels. This unique habitat supports rich plant and animal diversity, but this is a delicate balance that can be disrupted by nonnative species. European sea lavender (Limonium duriuscilum) is an invasive species of concern here on California’s central coast. It can crowd out native marsh plants such as California sea lavender (Limonium californicum) and endangered salt marsh bird’s beak (Chloropyron maritima) by outcompeting …

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