Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
Field Updates

Field Updates November 2021: Eelgrass Monitoring Behind the Scenes

Morro Rock and a dense eelgrass bed at sunset

    Eelgrass Monitoring Season  Our annual fall eelgrass monitoring process is underway, contributing new data to our efforts to track the health of this valuable natural resource. During the low tide window in early November, the Estuary Program teamed up with several members of the Watershed Stewards Program to visit specific sites in eelgrass beds across the bay and measure the density of eelgrass shoots. By visiting the same sites each year, we can see how the eelgrass beds change over time. Data collected by the Estuary Program in previous years documented a steady decline in eelgrass from 2007 to 2017 as well as a small resurgence that began in 2019. Based on our observations so far, it appears that eelgrass continues to reclaim lost acreage, …

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Field Updates October 2021: First Rain, Groundwater Recharge, and Runoff

A full stream runs after the October 2021s storm.

First rain! The Morro Bay watershed received its first rainfall for the new water year on October 24! A local rain gauge at Canet Road off Highway 1 in the Morro Bay watershed recorded 2.32 inches of rainfall over a three-day period. Local rain gauge network The Estuary Program has a local rain gauge network that compiles rainfall data and tracks hyper-local trends. This network relies on citizen scientists to gather rainfall data from their yards, schools, businesses, offices, or any outside space where a small rain gauge can sit undisturbed and collect the rain. If you’re not already a …

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Bioassessment 2021: the results are in! How healthy are local creeks? Plus a new video!

Click here to watch the new bioassessment video now, or find it at the end of this post.   Annual bioassessment monitoring tells us about creek health Each spring, the Estuary Program heads up a bioassessment monitoring effort in our local creeks. The data helps us understand the health of our creeks and how conditions are changing over time. The effort has two main components. We collect benthic macroinvertebrates, which are bottom-dwelling animals visible to the naked eye that lack a backbone. These include creatures such as stoneflies, dragonflies, and aquatic snails. We also collect habitat measurements such as whether …

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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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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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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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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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Field Updates January 2021: Wildlife, Rainfall, and Flow Monitoring

A San Diego Dorid in eelgrass.

    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 during this difficult time.  What’s Living in the Eelgrass? Estuary Program staff have continued to monitor eelgrass into January 2021, …

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