Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
climate change

Photograph Friday: drought and big storms around the Morro Bay estuary

In the heavy rains of March 2018, the willows and other plants in the restored flood plain at Twin Bridges along with the wide expanse of salt marsh at the waters edge gave the rushing runoff a place to slow down and sink in. Without these natural spaces, flood waters continue on toward the bay in full force and the possibility of increased erosion and damage to infrastructure rises.

    Today, we’re sharing photos that depict drought and large storms, two extremes that are expected to occur more frequently on California’s central coast due to climate change. Historic drought The 2021 water year, which began on October 1, 2020, has been historically dry. The California Department of Water Resources expressed concern about the dry winter conditions back in January 2021. In his Weather Watch column, John Lindsey tackled the future of drought across the state in June 2021, and the Central Coast’s quick dive from a state of Severe Drought to Extreme Drought in July 2021. Big storms …

Continue Reading

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 …

Continue Reading

Sea Slugs on the Move: Bent on World Domination, or Opportunistic Travel Bums?

Polycera atra (top) and Polycera hedgpethi on Bugula brozoan prey San Luis Obispo County, California

    Sea Slugs on the Move: Bent on World Domination, or Opportunistic Travel Bums? With the passing of the very low, very early morning tides of summer, tidepooling minds must reluctantly turn away from the outer edges of our coastline for a few months, until the autumn minus tides return in mid-October. And what better topic to occupy our Covid/smoke/asteroid/politics stressed minds than possible world domination by sea slugs? I exaggerate, of course. We won’t be marching in lines and waving tiny nudibranch flags any time soon. But there has been a quiet movement of sea slug populations taking …

Continue Reading

Investigating the State of Morro Bay Estuary: State of the Bay Report 2020

    Every three years, the Morro Bay National Estuary Program publishes a State of the Bay report that uses data gathered by our staff, volunteers, and partner organizations to examine the health of the Morro Bay estuary and watershed. It provides important information about environmental trends and guides local efforts to protect and restore this special place. This year, we published a digital version of the State of the Bay report with additional multimedia content and information that we couldn’t fit into into the print version of the report. Today, we invite you to investigate the the health of …

Continue Reading

May is for Bay: victory garden and composting

May is for the bay! All month we have been looking into ways to be more environmentally friendly, so that our bay stays healthy and beautiful. In these interesting times, many of us have been dedicating more of our time to gardening. I personally am excited to eat my yummy tomatoes! Did you know you can make your own environmentally friendly fertilizer at home by composting kitchen scraps?  Something that can easily be done at home? Yay!   Protect your bay! Compost!  How does composting help the environment?  By composting, you can redirect up to thirty percent of your waste from the landfill, where it would either rot or mummify, back to the earth where it can nourish new life. By diverting your …

Continue Reading

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 …

Continue Reading

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 …

Continue Reading

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 …

Continue Reading

Director’s Desk: #IHeartEstuaries 2019 in Morro Bay

Locals and visitors alike enjoy walking along the estuary at sunset.

    This week we are celebrating #IHeartEstuaries to highlight the value that estuaries play in our lives. How do you value our very own estuary, Morro Bay? Maybe you cherish early morning bird walks along the shore, evening paddles as the tide shifts underneath your oar, or the satisfaction of landing a fish off the T-pier. These personal moments are precious and palpable and drive much of our local community’s support for a clean and healthy bay. We also think beyond our watershed here at the Estuary Program—how important is our bay to our whole community? To our state …

Continue Reading

State of the Bay 2017: Eelgrass, Sedimentation, and Climate Change

  Our State of the Bay 2017 report contains data that the Estuary Program and our partners have collected over the years. We release this report every three years to answer common questions about the health of Morro Bay and its watershed. Last week’s blog post discussed the condition of water quality in the bay and creeks. This week, we address eelgrass, sedimentation, and climate change. Eelgrass: Tracking Current Conditions Eelgrass is a blooming underwater grass that puts down roots in sandy soils. Its long blades form an underwater forest, offering wildlife a place to rest, find food, and spawn. …

Continue Reading