Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
estuary program

Sea Clowning Around: Triopha maculata and Triopha catalinae, by Robin Agarwal

Triopha Maculata Sun Salutation, photographed in Santa Cruz, CA by Robin Agarwal

  Spotted Triopha or Triopha maculata One of the most charming creatures found along the Central California coast is the Spotted Triopha nudibranch (Triopha maculata). With its colorful body, white polka dots, and bushy “beard”—properly called papillae—on the edge of its oral veil, this engaging sea slug is one of the most common you’ll encounter year-round, either on a dive or during a casual inspection of tidepools at low tide.  Triopha maculata color variants The only minor difficulty is realizing that you’re looking at one. Spotted Triophas come in at least two color variants that caused even veteran scientists to …

Continue Reading

Field Updates, October 2019: Eelgrass Mapping, Ground-truthing, and Cal Poly Partnerships

Andi, eelgrass technician.

  Eelgrass fieldwork depends on tides Fall is a busy eelgrass season for field staff at the Estuary Program. The exact timing of our field work depends on when the good low-tides occur, which varies slightly from year to year. This year, October had a few days that had tides low enough to expose the eelgrass during daylight hours. This doesn’t always happen—sometimes the low tides we need happen after sundown and before sunrise. We were glad to see good tides in combination with good timing because we have a few different projects going on. Monitoring permanent eelgrass plots First …

Continue Reading

Creeks to Coast Cleanup Success in Morro Bay

    No matter how far inland we live, we’re all connected to the ocean by water. Rain washes downhill and into stormdrains, creeks, and rivers before entering the sea. So, if we’re going to keep plastics, other harmful debris, and pollutants out of the estuary and ocean, we have to start inland. That’s the idea behind the Creeks to Coast cleanup, a set of 49 cleanups organized by local nonprofit ECOSLO. This massive cleanup effort took place last weekend all across San Luis Obispo County on International Coastal Cleanup Day. During the course of three hours,  1,840 volunteers picked …

Continue Reading

Cuesta College dives in to help study eelgrass declines in Morro Bay

    A guest post by Dauphiene Parks During June 2019, a group of fourteen spirited Cuesta College Marine Microbiology students came together under the kind and careful guidance of professors Laurie McConnico and Silvio Favoreto. The mission was to explore the Morro Bay Estuary and examine the local eelgrass population. We quickly learned that 97% of the eelgrass in the Morro Bay Estuary has been lost, and that eelgrass habitats can provide an estimated $87,000 in ecosystem services annually. We were excited to be a part of this class that allowed us to earn college credit and work on a …

Continue Reading

Floodplain Restoration Project Sneak Peek in Photographs

Heavy machinery for regrading.

    Estuary Program staff and many of our partners, including the California Conservation Corps, the Watershed Stewards Program, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, have been hard at work on a large-scale floodplain restoration project in the Morro Bay watershed. This Labor Day, we are sharing a few photographs from the project site to celebrate the efforts of everyone involved in this project. From those with their boots on the ground to those involved in the land purchase, planning, and permitting processes, every single person who has worked on this longterm endeavor has contributed something essential. We …

Continue Reading

Twenty-Five Years After the Highway 41 Fire of August 1994

The smoke plume grows as the Highway 41 fire spreads. Photograph by Ruth Ann Angus, August 1994.

  Watching the Highway 41 Fire from the Morro Bay estuary On August 14, 1994, the Highway 41 fire broke out on the Cuesta Grade. Ruth Ann Angus, local photographer, writer, and long-time supporter of the Estuary Program, was out kayaking on the bay with a friend when the Highway 41 blaze began. As Ruth Ann recalls, “We paddled all the way back to Sweet Springs and as we turned around there, I spotted the puff of smoke in the sky. I knew it was bad so we immediately began paddling back to the Marina area….” She took photos on …

Continue Reading

The truth about sunscreen: its effects on us and the environment

Summer is coming in hot! Iced tea, pool days, and movie nights are fast approaching. With all the excitement that comes with summer, you might not be thinking about the invention that allows our skin to survive the brutal rays of the sun—sunscreen. Whether you are a fan of old-school white goop or spray-on, most sunscreens are made out of the same basic ingredients. The main difference lies in how the active ingredients work to keep you from burning. There are two types of sunscreen, chemical sunscreen and mineral sunscreen, which is also known as physical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreen vs. …

Continue Reading

Document Morro Bay’s Biodiversity During Snapshot Cal Coast

    Most of California, and the entire California coast, is identified as a Global Biodiversity Hotspot, called the California Floristic Province. Like the other Global Hotspots, this area has a high number of species that are endemic, meaning that they are native to this area and are found nowhere else. Every year, The California Academy of Sciences (CAS) asks people to document this extreme biodiversity through a bioblitz event called Snapshot Cal Coast. During the bioblitz, citizen scientists use iNaturalist to document all of the flora and fauna that they find in a specific coastal location. This year, Snapshot Cal Coast …

Continue Reading

Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Mystery Species Revealed

Mystery species number 1

  In last week’s post, we shared photographs of four species native to San Luis Obispo County and asked you to identify them. Today’s post reveals all four mystery species and shares information about each one. Wildlife Spotlight: Mystery species #1 Common salp (Salpa fusiformis) These ethereal-looking creatures are sometimes mistaken for jellyfish, but they are much more complex. In fact, they are more closely related to humans than they are to jellies. This is because, as larvae, salps have a simple backbone called a notochord, which is composed of a tissue similar to cartilage. Though the notochord all but …

Continue Reading

Get Ready for Clean Boating on Morro Bay

  With the spring winds whipping along the Embarcadero and whitecaps on the bay, summer might seem far away. But, in just a couple of months, school will let out and prime boating season will begin. Helping boaters keep our bay clean This fall, the Morro Bay Harbor Department distributed kits that included spill prevention, containment, and response materials to all 27 boat-docking stations along Morro Bay’s shoreline. These kits make it easier for boaters to avoid spilling oil and other hazardous materials into the estuary. They also provide instructions, personal protection equipment, and cleanup materials that enable boaters and …

Continue Reading