Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
estuary program

Snapshot Cal Coast 2021: Calling All Community Scientists to Document Morro Bay’s Diversity

    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, the sixth …

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MORRO BAY WATERSHED NATIVE PLANT SERIES: Riparian Plant Communities

    This series of native plant blog posts has explored the different plants found throughout the Morro Bay watershed. A watershed is an area where freshwater creeks and streams flow from higher ground down towards the ocean. Riparian zone plants reach deep when streams run dry In the Morro Bay Watershed, some creeks and streams flow year round, and some don’t. Even though they’re not full of water, dry creek beds are still bordered by vegetation. This is due to the presence of groundwater, which is water that exists beneath Earth’s surface in soil pore spaces (the space between …

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Morro Bay Watershed Native Plant Series: Introduction

  Why do native plants thrive in the lands surrounding Morro Bay? The Morro Bay watershed is one of the most botanically diverse regions in California. This diversity can be traced back to the ice ages as California’s coastline receded and advanced over thousands of years, and the tectonic plates settled into their current position. Many communities and species of plants have evolved here as a result of such active geologic change. These plant communities have continued to exist and thrive because San Luis Obispo County still resembles its natural state, despite increasing human habitation and land use development. Because …

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Morro Bay Eelgrass Restoration Update: May 2020

    Eelgrass in Morro Bay grows at a range of intertidal and subtidal depths throughout the estuary. Intertidal areas are exposed at high tide, while subtidal locations are always under water. Over the last few years, the Estuary Program has focused on transplanting eelgrass at intertidal locations. Focusing on shallower intertidal locations has been ideal for getting access to the mudflats on foot, and has allowed us to maximize our volunteer support. (Thank you, volunteers!) This spring, we are excited to have additional funding to expand our planting efforts to subtidal locations, too, as many intertidal areas off the …

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Updates from the Field, December 2019: wildlife, staff changes, and restoration

Morro Bay estuary with bat ray pits, Morro Bay National Estuary Program

    Wildlife observations The fall is a great time for observing invertebrates along the mudflat in Morro Bay, and lucky for us, we are out monitoring eelgrass every fall. This often leaves us wondering, “What is this?!”, but sometimes we find the answers while monitoring eelgrass health. For example, we have been seeing a number of egg masses such as this one, tucked away on blades of eelgrass. Considering the diverse array of organisms that utilize eelgrass as habitat, we were left wondering which creature had been laying the eggs. Sometimes though, you wander along the right part of …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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