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Morro Bay National Estuary

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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Field Updates March 2021: Volunteer Monitoring Program Updates and Bioassessment Site Scouting

Monitoring staff conducts bioassessment site scouting in the Morro Bay watershed

  Read each month’s Field Updates post to see what our Monitoring Team have been up to.  Updates on the Volunteer Monitoring Program As of March 2nd 2021, San Luis Obispo County moved from the purple or “Widespread” tier back into the red tier. The Morro Bay National Estuary Program’s current COVID-19 Safety Policy allows for volunteer monitoring when the San Luis Obispo County risk level is at or below the red tier designation, as outlined by COVID19.ca.gov. As such, the Estuary Program has slowly begun inviting back volunteers in a limited capacity. We have coupled this change with additional …

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Bioassessment Survey Results 2020: Tracking the Health of Local Creeks

  One of the goals of the Estuary Program is to monitor the bay and the lands that surround it to better understand conditions and how they are changing over time. As part of this effort, the Estuary Program conducts spring bioassessment surveys. This data allows us to assess the health of our creeks and determine if they support sensitive aquatic life. What is bioassessment? Each spring, staff and volunteers head out to local creeks to collect habitat measurements. These measurements include the depth of the water, the size of the rocks in the stream, and the amount of tree cover …

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MORRO BAY WATERSHED NATIVE PLANT SERIES: Coast Live Oak Woodlands

  Coast Live Oak Woodlands Are Unique Oak woodlands are so characteristic and unique to our state that many think the plant community should be declared California’s state vegetation type. 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! The term “woodland” is used instead of “forest” because the canopies in a woodland rarely overlap, allowing for more space and sunlight between trees. Woodlands also typically occur on drier soils and at lower elevations than forests. Where to find oak …

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Updates from the Field: Monitoring Eelgrass Expansion

Makenzie, Monitoring Coordinator, takes data while monitoring eelgrass in Morro Bay.

    The Morro Bay National Estuary Program’s fieldwork has been deemed an essential service by the County of San Luis Obispo. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, we are not working with volunteers at this time and our field staff are following updated monitoring protocols. We look forward to working with volunteers and other community members again as soon as it is safe for us to do so. Thank you, readers, for staying engaged and supporting the Estuary Program’s work on monitoring eelgrass expansion and other projects during this difficult time.  Green, green, everywhere! If you’ve been out on the …

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Field Updates February 2021: Post-Storm Monitoring

  COVID-19 Precautions The Morro Bay National Estuary Program’s fieldwork has been deemed an essential service by the County of San Luis Obispo. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, we are not working with volunteers at this time and our field staff are following updated monitoring protocols. We look forward to working with volunteers and other community members again as soon as it is safe for us to do so. Thank you, readers, for staying engaged and supporting the Estuary Program’s work on storm monitoring and other fieldwork tasks during this difficult time.  Monitoring Sites Post-Storm January brought a substantial amount …

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