Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
citizen science

Community Scientists Make a Difference for Morro Bay

A plastic sand toy left on rocks at the beach.

  While not everyone can be a marine biologist, a meteorologist, or a conservation ecologist, anyone can contribute to the wealth of data that these experts use and study. Our own Monitoring program uses data gathered by community scientist volunteers and staff members to keep an eye on long-term trends in water quality, bacteria levels, and other factors that influence stream and bay health. (We are not working with volunteers at this time due to COVID-19 precautions, but we look forward to having our volunteers back in the field as soon as it’s safe to do so.) Today, we’re sharing …

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Western Monarchs Need Our Help: Monarch Migration and Population Decline

Monarch butterflies cluster on eucalyptus leaves in Sweet Springs Nature Preserve. Photograph courtesy of Michael "Mike" L. Baird, bairdphotos.com by Flickr Creative Commons license.

Central Coast monarch butterfly sightings If you live on the Central Coast or visit during the fall or winter, you’ve likely seen monarch butterflies making their way along the annual migration path. Driving down the freeway, you might catch the bright orange and black flash of monarch wings as they flit as fast as they can across the road,  fighting the wind whipped up by traffic. These insect athletes are built for distance rather than speed. The Western monarch’s annual migration of up to 3,000 miles is the longest on record, but their estimated average flight speed of of 5.5 …

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Western Monarchs Need Our Help: Reasons for Monarch Decline and What You Can Do

Monarch butterflies cluster on eucalyptus leaves in Sweet Springs Nature Preserve. Photograph courtesy of Michael "Mike" L. Baird, bairdphotos.com by Flickr Creative Commons license.

  Why western monarchs are disappearing In recent years, scientists have cited several reasons for the dramatic loss of Western monarch butterflies. A well-known and loved butterfly species that travels thousands of miles over multiple generations to escape the cold northern winters. Lack of native milkweed One reason for this reduction in numbers revolves around the loss of essential native milkweed plants along the monarchs’ migration path. These plants provide a place for the monarchs to lay their eggs and allow their larvae to feed on of them. Milkweed plants are also a food source for monarch caterpillars. By consuming …

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Help Scientists See the Future: California King Tides Project 2020 to 2021

This image shows the stairway to the beach at Tidelands Park. An ultra-low tide is pictured on the left and an ultra-high tide on the right.

  What is the California King Tides Project? Scientists need you to be their eyes on the ocean December 13–15, 2020 and—if you live north of Point Conception—January 11 and 12, 2021. On these dates, the California coast will experience King Tides, the highest tides of the year. 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 …

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Director’s Desk: We Are Still Here, Monitoring, Restoring, Educating

Monitoring Coordinator, Makenzie, sports a mask during fieldwork.

    We are in a time of colliding arcs of history, immersed in the uncertainty and heightened emotions of change. The backdrop of this moment, like all moments, is our Earth. The place that holds and nurtures us. In the Morro Bay watershed, we are exceedingly lucky to be able to enjoy the beauty and peace of our estuary. The fluidity of the bay—the changing of the tides, the movement of the birds, the ever shifting fog line—brings both comfort and a mirror to the constant change around us. Although each of us may not be able to get …

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Rare Nudibranch! Two Citizen Scientists find Cerberilla pungoarena in the Morro Bay Estuary

Cerberilla pungoarena in Morro Bay. Copyright passiflora4, Laura Schachterle and Thomas Hintz.

    Cerberilla pungoarena (Collier & Farmer, 1964) is one of those rare nudibranchs you may never see: only a few subtidal specimens have been reported since the mid-2000s. But now, fifteen years later and further north than they have ever been seen before, a single specimen of C. pungoarena was spotted and photographed a few months ago in shallow water in the Morro Bay Estuary by two intrepid nudibranch enthusiasts, Laura Schachterle and Thomas Hintz.  Nudibranchs are shell-less marine molluscs commonly called sea slugs. There are over 130 species of nudibranchs found in California, many brightly-colored. “Great find and …

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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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Help Scientists Track the Dwindling Population of Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies cluster on eucalyptus leaves in Sweet Springs Nature Preserve. Photograph courtesy of Michael "Mike" L. Baird, bairdphotos.com by Flickr Creative Commons license.

  Monarchs come to the Central California Coast when cool weather hits Starting in October, monarch butterflies fill the branches of eucalyptus, Monterey pines, and other trees along California’s Central Coast. They cluster together high above the ground, looking much like bunches of dead leaves unless you use a spotting scope to take a closer look, or catch a flash of their black and orange wings as a butterfly moves away from its cluster to a sunny spot where it will open its wings and take in the sun’s warmth. Monarch butterflies come here to ride out the winter in …

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Citizen Scientists Make a Difference for Morro Bay

We used the Trash Tracker for the first time at our inaugural Pickup and Paddle event in 2017. We're excited to continue using it this year!

  While not everyone can be a marine biologist, a meteorologist, or a conservation ecologist, almost anyone can help contribute to the wealth of knowledge that these experts draw from in their work. Our own Monitoring program uses data gathered by citizen scientist volunteers and staff members to keep an eye on long-term trends in water quality, bacteria levels, and other factors that influence stream and bay health. In honor of National Citizen Science Day tomorrow, we’re sharing a few ways that you can help move science forward at home and beyond. Marine debris projects Clean Swell This simple app created …

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Sea Star Wasting Disease | Monitoring in Morro Bay

Infected sea star; photograph taken on day one, June 27, 2014 on Guemes Island, Washington. Credit: Kit Harma, Evergreen Shore monitor.

  A mysterious disease called Sea Star Wasting Disease Syndrome (SSWS) has been causing mass mortality of sea stars along much of the Pacific Coast from Baja California to the Gulf of Alaska. Twenty-two species of sea stars have been affected by it, making this a die-off event of the greatest magnitude, spread over the greatest geographic area to date. Melissa Douglas, Associate Research Specialist at University of California, Santa Cruz, is an expert on the syndrome. She is concerned about the spread of the disease. As she says, “Past SSWS outbreaks were restricted to Southern CA and Baja Mexico. …

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