Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
field work

A Day in the Life of a Field Tech: Eelgrass Monitoring, by Blake Toney

A staff member stands in waders in a puddle on the mudflat.

In today’s post, Blake Toney, former Morro Bay National Estuary Program Field Tech, reflects on an early morning spent monitoring eelgrass during a very low tide in Morro Bay.  5:40 a.m. I arrive at today’s site a few minutes before my coworkers to get my bearings. The sun will not rise for another hour, but already the dark sky has begun to take on a hint of blue so faint it becomes harder to see when I concentrate on it. The moon provides some light, enough for me to trek out across the mud after struggling to fit into my …

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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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Field Updates February 2020: Creek and Eelgrass

Creek Water Quality February was a month marked with warm temperatures and low precipitation here in the Morro Bay watershed. In February 2019, the San Luis Obispo CIMIS rain gauge received 7.48 inches of rain, with 57% of days during the month recording rainfall. Comparatively, this year’s rainfall has been much lower, with a February monthly total of 0.01 inches of rain and only one day with rainfall as of February 28. Low precipitation levels have led to low flows in our creeks, as can be seen in this picture of Dairy Creek, a tributary of Chorro Creek. The amount …

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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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Field Updates November 2019: Eelgrass, wildlife sightings, weather

    November was a busy month for our field staff. Mapping eelgrass and algae The Estuary Program has been mapping submerged vegetation, such as eelgrass and algae, for more than fifteen years. This is done by having a plane fly over the bay taking a series of images, including a multispectral image. We try to repeat this survey about every other year, with 2019 being an eelgrass flight year. Multispectral imagery Multispectral imagery is produced by sensors that measure the reflected energy within several bands of the electromagnetic signature, usually capturing light not visible to our eyes. You can …

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Field Updates September, 2019: Stream Profiling and Bay Monitoring

  Fall is in full effect here on the Central Coast, and we are enjoying the crisp mornings and clear days that go along with it. Fall is typically the slowest time of year for fieldwork so we are mostly catching up on activities back here at the office and planning upcoming projects, but that’s not to say we haven’t been out in the field this month. Thank you, cleanup volunteers! We hope some of you got out this month for Creeks to Coast Cleanup Day, where nearly 2,000 wonderful volunteers picked up about 11,500 pounds of trash from our …

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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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Field Updates, August 2019: Creeks, Stream Profile Survey, Upper Watershed Views

Lower Chorro Creek

    As summer winds down here along the Central Coast, schools are back in session and fall is just around the corner. Though this time of year is slower for field work as most of the field team is busy entering data and writing reports on our various projects, we still got to check out a few different places in our beautiful watershed. Creeks Our long-term monitoring program in the creeks continues with our staff and the help of volunteers. To see what we use the data we gather for, or learn more about what we do out at …

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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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Field updates April & May 2019: Monitoring Eelgrass and Creek Health

Two members from the Watershed Stewards Program lay out eelgrass blades on a white board for counting and photographing.

    Fieldwork season is in full swing now for us here at the Morro Bay National Estuary Program, and we have been busy hiking around the creeks and estuary to continue monitoring our local watershed. In April and May, we monitored eelgrass and conducted bioassessment monitoring to help us see how healthy our creeks are. Eelgrass monitoring Eelgrass monitoring continues as usual when the tides are low enough to let us collect data. This past month, there was a good window spanning multiple days where we were able to monitor for a couple hours each day to check on …

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