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Morro Bay National Estuary

Field Updates January 2020: Eelgrass Success and Creek Water Quality

This month, our field staff have been busy monitoring eelgrass success in the bay and water quality in the creeks that drain to the Morro Bay estuary. Eelgrass monitoring and restoration success If you spent time out on the bay in January, you might have noticed the really high tides. January 2020 had King Tides, meaning that the high tides were much higher than normal. These extreme high tides are mirrored by extreme low tides. We always take advantage of these extreme low tides to monitor eelgrass, as we have a wider window than normal to conduct our monitoring. Eelgrass …

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Photograph Friday: Why We Heart Estuaries

Brown pelicans are often found fishing in the Morro Bay estuary.

  Every year around Valentine’s Day, the Morro Bay National Estuary Program joins in I Heart Estuaries Week. During this time, we celebrate and raise awareness of the essential contributions that estuaries make to the health of our planet and to our quality of life. In that spirit, this Photograph Friday post illustrates some of the reasons why we should protect, conserve, and restore these special places where saltwater and freshwater mix. Estuaries provide clean water, abundant wildlife, natural beauty, recreation, and historic and cultural assets. In addition to their intrinsic value, these elements also contribute to the local economy …

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20 ways you can be more environmentally friendly during the roaring eco-20s.  

As the month of New Year’s resolutions approaches the finish line, you might want to add more to your list! Here are twenty ways you can be more environmentally friendly during the roaring eco-20s.   1. I scream, you scream, we all scream for sunscreen! (Especially when we forget to put it on and find ourselves covered in sunburn.)  Do you know what type of sunscreen you use? There are two types of sunscreen, chemical and mineral sunscreen. Chemical sunscreen is now known to contribute to coral reef bleaching and potentially harming other wildlife through water contamination.  How do you know you have a chemical sunscreen? Look for these active ingredients listed on the bottle: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. If you have any of these in your sunscreen, that means it’s a chemical …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Balls of Spines (AKA Sea Urchins)

  Is it a ball? Is it a Pokémon? Nope, it’s a sea urchin! Sea urchins, even though common, are really cool! In Morro Bay, there are mainly two species, purple sea urchin and red sea urchin. The biggest difference between the two is their size and color. Red sea urchins can reach up to five inches in diameter whereas purple sea urchins reach only two inches in diameter. The most common species is the pacific purple sea urchin, also known as Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Sea urchins use their spikes and poison as a defense mechanism. The poison is located at …

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Updates from the Field, December 2019: wildlife, staff changes, and restoration

Morro Bay estuary with bat ray pits, Morro Bay National Estuary Program

    Wildlife observations The fall is a great time for observing invertebrates along the mudflat in Morro Bay, and lucky for us, we are out monitoring eelgrass every fall. This often leaves us wondering, “What is this?!”, but sometimes we find the answers while monitoring eelgrass health. For example, we have been seeing a number of egg masses such as this one, tucked away on blades of eelgrass. Considering the diverse array of organisms that utilize eelgrass as habitat, we were left wondering which creature had been laying the eggs. Sometimes though, you wander along the right part of …

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Help Scientists See the Future: California King Tides Project 2020

windy cove king tide 2019

  What is the California King Tides Project? Scientists need you to be their eyes on the ocean between January 10–12 and February 8–9, 2020. On these dates, the California coast will experience the highest tides of the year, commonly called King Tides. These extreme tides often encroach on infrastructure, submerging coastal access stairways, swallowing beach-side trails, overwhelming boardwalks, surging into storm-drains, and flooding roads. They can also inundate coastal habitats that aren’t typically submerged, like higher marsh areas or even dune scrub. With the rate of sea level rise increasing worldwide, what we consider ultra-high tides today may be …

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Your Top Blog Posts of 2019

  During 2019, you tuned in to the Estuary Program blog to follow field work projects, to learn about local wildlife, to track the health of the bay, and to see how you can help the estuary and watershed. Today, we’re sharing the posts readers visited most often this year across these four categories. If you haven’t read them yet, now’s a great time to catch up! Top Field Work Post Field Updates February 2019: Wet weather, Eelgrass Restoration, and Creek Monitoring This post shares rainfall totals, details the process of sediment sampling and analysis that we use, and explains …

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How to be environmentally friendly during the holidays!

Whether you’ve been counting down the days with your festive sweaters or hiding in a cave under a box, hoping to avoid the hustle and bustle, the holidays have arrived. Since we know you care about the health of Morro Bay and beyond, we’re here to help you avoid the holiday season becoming a season of unintended wastefulness. That’s right, ’tis the season to get environmental! Here are some simple ways to be more eco-friendly this year. Gift giving Want to get something really cool for your loved ones? Try picking up presents locally. Look up local artists and craftspeople, or visit collective art galleries or holiday fairs, to get unique gifts for …

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Sea Clowning Around: Triopha maculata and Triopha catalinae, by Robin Agarwal

Triopha Maculata Sun Salutation, photographed in Santa Cruz, CA by Robin Agarwal

  Spotted Triopha or Triopha maculata One of the most charming creatures found along the Central California coast is the Spotted Triopha nudibranch (Triopha maculata). With its colorful body, white polka dots, and bushy “beard”—properly called papillae—on the edge of its oral veil, this engaging sea slug is one of the most common you’ll encounter year-round, either on a dive or during a casual inspection of tidepools at low tide.  Triopha maculata color variants The only minor difficulty is realizing that you’re looking at one. Spotted Triophas come in at least two color variants that caused even veteran scientists to …

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Field Updates November 2019: Eelgrass, wildlife sightings, weather

    November was a busy month for our field staff. Mapping eelgrass and algae The Estuary Program has been mapping submerged vegetation, such as eelgrass and algae, for more than fifteen years. This is done by having a plane fly over the bay taking a series of images, including a multispectral image. We try to repeat this survey about every other year, with 2019 being an eelgrass flight year. Multispectral imagery Multispectral imagery is produced by sensors that measure the reflected energy within several bands of the electromagnetic signature, usually capturing light not visible to our eyes. You can …

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