Photo from Coastal Cleanup Day 2017         


Morro Bay Science Explorations with the Estuary Program: Fish and Fisheries

Thursday, June 14, 2018. Doors at 6, event starts at 6:15. Each of three presentations will be followed by a short Q&A session.

Location: San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden’s Oak Glen Pavilion.

Speakers and Presentation Descriptions

Dr. Sean Lema will give his talk titled, “Linking conservation physiology and fisheries ecology to assess the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).”

Description: The ability to quickly and accurately measure how quickly fish are growing can provide crucial information for applying best management practices for fish populations. Here, I will discuss the development and application of a novel, hormone-based ‘biomarker’ approach to measure growth rates of fish in the wild, and discuss how this approach is beginning to be applied to assess local growth variation in rockfishes along California’s Central Coast.

Dr. Sean Lema is an Associate Professor in the Biological Sciences Department and Center for Coastal Marine Sciences at Cal Poly, where his research focuses on the environmental endocrinology and conservation of marine and inland fishes. Dr. Lema’s research explores basic questions about the physiology of fishes, and integrates physiological approaches into new methods for conservation and management. His research has spanned the study of fish ranging from endangered species in the deserts of California and Nevada to rockfish along the Central Coast.

Learn more at Dr. Lema’s webpage and his laboratory website.


Grant T. Waltz, M.S., will give his talk titled, “Rockfish and marine protected areas: examining the effect of more than a decade of groundfish protection in San Luis Obispo County.”

Description: San Luis Obispo County has a suite of marine protected areas designed to protect or restore fish and invertebrate populations, including groundfish (rockfish, Lingcod, Cabezon). Cal Poly has been monitoring groundfish populations in and around marine protected areas in San Luis Obispo County, in collaboration with local commercial and recreational fishers, since 2003. These studies have collected data that have been used to inform state and federal fisheries resource management decisions. This presentation will summarize the marine protected area research and related findings from Cal Poly and our fishing collaborators.

Grant T. Waltz, Researcher, Center for Coastal Marine Sciences, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Grant Waltz is a research staff member with the Center for Coastal Marine Sciences at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. His primary area of focus is nearshore marine ecology and he has been working in or around the ocean for twelve years. He started his career in marine ecology studying the impacts of human access to the rocky intertidal. Grant has conducted surveys of the kelp forest ecosystem inside and outside of marine protected areas in California using SCUBA. He currently works with commercial and recreational anglers to monitor marine protected areas in San Luis Obispo County. Grant has an M.S. degree in Biological Sciences from Cal Poly and a B.S. degree in Biological Sciences from UC Riverside.


Watershed Stewards Program Team Leaders and Members, “Watershed Stewards Program’s work in local watersheds.” 

Description: The Watershed Stewards Program (WSP) focuses on the conservation, restoration, and enhancement of salmon and trout-bearing watersheds. Learn more about WSP from Team Leaders Tessa Wolf and Angelica Kahler. Next, WSP Members Tim Scully and Evelyn Barajas–Perez discuss the exciting work they are doing locally, including monitoring salmon and trout nests (also known as redds).


Angelica Kahler graduated in 2016 from Western Washington University with a BS in Biology with a focus in Marine. Interned with the Surfrider Foundation while in college and presented a scientific poster at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, Canada. The poster dealt with the harmful levels of enterococcus bacteria found throughout western Washington watersheds. Previously served with an AmeriCorps program last year in San Jose, CA which specialized in urban tree care and planting. Currently serving as a Watershed Stewards Program Team Leader in San Luis Obispo.

Angelica Kahler, WSP Team Leader, helps harvest eelgrass with the Estuary Program at Coleman Beach.

Tessa Wolf grew up in San Luis Obispo.  She moved to Santa Cruz to study Marine Biology at UC Santa Cruz (UCSC).  During her time at UCSC, she taught school programs at the school’s marine lab and worked as a restoration intern at the Younger Lagoon Reserve.  After graduating from UCSC in 2017, she moved back to her hometown of SLO where she serves as a Team Leader for the Watershed Stewards Program.

Angelica Kahler on left, and Tessa Wolf on right, observe a bat star in an eelgrass bed.

Angelica Kahler on left, and Tessa Wolf on right, observe a bat star in an eelgrass bed.

Evelyn Barajas–Perez graduated from the University of California, Riverside in 2015, majoring in Biology. Initially she intended to pursue a career in the medical field, focusing on becoming a doctor. After volunteering at several hospitals she realized it wasn’t the path for her. Afterwards, Evelyn began working in a conifer lab with Dr. Jeff Diaz and grew an appreciation for nature. It was then that she decided to pursue a career in helping people; but, not by diagnosing illnesses but by protecting the home of all humans, Earth. This led to her applying to the Watershed Stewards Program to which she was placed at the San Joaquin River Parkway site. Now she is placed at the San Luis Obispo Steelhead Initiative continuing on with her second year in the WSP program.

Evelyn Barajas-Perez during a redd survey

Evelyn Barajas-Perez, WSP Member, during a redd survey.

Tim Scully graduated from Humboldt State University in spring of 2017, majoring in Environmental Management & Protection. While at Humboldt State Scully became president of the Natural Resources Club, a club dedicated to participating in ecological restoration events around Humboldt County every Saturday. Scully also participated in the Waste Reduction and Resource Awareness Program (WRRAP) at Humboldt State as a compost operator. He joined the Watershed Stewards Program in order to continue his passion of environmental stewardship and to protect California’s watersheds.

Tim Scully poses with his recently-planted eelgrass patch.

Tim Scully poses with his recently-planted eelgrass patch.




Morro Bay Science Explorations with the Estuary Program

Thursday, 2/8/2018  |  Climate Change and Rising Seas on the Central Coast

Joanna Wu of Audubon California discussed the effects of climate change on bird populations. Estuary Program Assistant Director Ann Kitajima presented the results of Dr. Karen Thorne’s study of California coast tidal marshes and projected impacts from sea level rise. Dr. Michael R. Boswell, AICP, of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo spoke about mitigation and management of sea level rise locally and across the state.

Thursday, 10/12/2017  |  Eelgrass and the Estuary

The first in this science talk series hosted by the Estuary Program focused on eelgrass in Morro Bay. Speakers included Carolyn Geraghty, Estuary Program Restoration Projects Manager, Dr. Jenn Yost of California Polytechnic State University’s Biological Sciences Department, and local Brant goose expert John Roser.

Find the Facebook event here.


Winners of the 2018 Poetry Contest, A National Treasure in Words, are featured on the blog.




From science-based activities, celebratory mixers, shoreline cleanups, informative talks, active hikes, and more, here are some other local events put on by Estuary Program partners around the community.


The Central Coast State Parks Association has a variety of walks, talks, hands-on science workshops, and activities hosted by docents, California State Park officials, and other experts. Learn about the collection of happenings for all ages on their Events page.

ECOSLO organizes activities including docent-led hikes to promote healthy lifestyles and an engaged community in protecting natural resources locally and beyond. Check out the ECOSLO calendar on their website for info about upcoming activities.

The Land Conservancy of SLO leads hikers and bikers throughout the county. Their regular docent-led hikes and biking tours for a variety of levels provide special access to some private lands and information about the areas they work to protect. The LCSLO calendar of walks, tours, and special events as well can be found on their website.

San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden indulges guests in many hands on activities for all ages as well as informative walks through the property. See the SLO Botanical Garden’s events page where they list recurring as well as special workshops and activities.

Small Wilderness Area Preservation (SWAP), The Los Osos and Morro Bay Chapter holds Third Saturday Walks monthly. Stroll through the Elfin Forest with a guest speaker presenting on a topic related to the natural history of the area. Visit SWAP’s website for this month’s presenter and topic.



Morro Bay National Estuary Program brings together citizens, local governments, non-profits, agencies, and landowners to protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary.

Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.