Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
morro bay estuary

Photograph Friday: Armored Invertebrates in the Morro Bay Estuary

kelp crab on ulva

    When asked to think of an animal, most people picture something they are familiar with like a housecat, bluebird, mountain lion, shark, coyote, gopher, or some other mammal, fish, or bird. All of these species are vertebrates— animals that have a backbone. Though people are most familiar with vertebrates, 97% of animals worldwide are invertebrates, which lack a backbone and spinal column. The invertebrate group comprises an incredibly diverse array of species, including everything from soft-bodied earth worms and venomous scorpions on land to burrowing geoducks and colonial coral beneath the waves. In this post, we’ll share four …

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Field Updates October 2021: First Rain, Groundwater Recharge, and Runoff

A full stream runs after the October 2021s storm.

First rain! The Morro Bay watershed received its first rainfall for the new water year on October 24! A local rain gauge at Canet Road off Highway 1 in the Morro Bay watershed recorded 2.32 inches of rainfall over a three-day period. Local rain gauge network The Estuary Program has a local rain gauge network that compiles rainfall data and tracks hyper-local trends. This network relies on citizen scientists to gather rainfall data from their yards, schools, businesses, offices, or any outside space where a small rain gauge can sit undisturbed and collect the rain. If you’re not already a …

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Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest 2021: Winning Poems

  This week, we are happy to share the winning poems for our 2021 Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest! Many thanks to our winning authors and to everyone who entered this year’s contest. We are grateful to you for sharing your love of words and the Morro Bay estuary. Many thanks to our generous and talented judges, Marnie Parker, Patti Sullivan, and Kevin Patrick Sullivan. Please enjoy. Estuarine 17: Youth Haiku 8-12 First Place By Evelyn Nannie Student at Family Partnership Charter Middle School   Balance Like yen and like yang Where two halves become one whole Our estuary   …

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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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Field Updates May 2021: Spring Eelgrass Monitoring

Makenzie, our Monitoring Projects Coordinator, at our site located on the Sandspit. Staff access the site via stand up paddle boards

  A quick introduction… Hi everyone! My name is Bret, and I am the new Monitoring Projects Manager for the Estuary Program. I’m a recent transplant from the Midwest, but the West Coast has been calling to me for quite some time. As I get settled here in Morro Bay, I look forward to learning more about our estuary as well as how to be a steward of our watershed. I arrived in Morro Bay at the beginning of April, just in time for bioassessment (you can read more about bioassessment in our April Field Updates blog post). I really …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Striped Shore Crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes)

a striped shore crab peeks out from under a rock.

Striped shore crab identification and habitat What striped shore crabs look like The striped shore crab is a type of crustacean, about one to two inches (or 3 to 5 centimeters) wide.  Their carapace (i.e. hard, upper shell) is a very dark purple, red, or even green, and lined with bright yellow-green stripes. Though this color combination makes striped shore crabs eye catching when you see them out in the open, it helps them disappear into dark, rocky crevices where they hide amongst sea lettuce, rock weed, and bits of kelp. Its pincers, also known as chelae, are often a …

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Field Updates April 2021: Bioassessment Highlights and Volunteer Support

Staff member holds a rock during bioassessment

    What is bioassessment? For those of you unfamiliar with this effort, our annual spring bioassessment is our largest survey effort of the year. This survey effort focuses on the biological assessment of ten local creeks within the Morro Bay watershed, using an evaluation protocol created by the Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP) and the State of California. Bioassessment surveys utilize a number of different criteria to assess creek health, with the primary focus being the assessment of benthic macroinvertebrates (BMIs). BMIs can be used as a proxy to determine stream health, since the abundance or absence of …

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First Flush in the Morro Bay Watershed: What goes down the drain?

First Flush Embarcadero

    Each fall, many of us busily prepare for the first big rain of the wet season. Homeowners might clean out gutters and put away patio furniture. Cities often run their street sweepers and vacuum out storm drains to prevent flooding. This past fall, the Estuary Program prepared for what is known as First Flush monitoring. What’s the harm in a little runoff? In the course of daily life, pollutants build up on our streets and sidewalks. Things like oil spills from cars, fertilizer from landscaping, pet waste, and trash can gather. When the first big rain arrives, these …

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Field Updates December 2020: Eelgrass Monitoring and Volunteer Monitoring Update

Monitoring eelgrass at a site near Morro Rock in December 2020.

The Morro Bay National Estuary Program’s fieldwork has been deemed an essential service by the County of San Luis Obispo. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, we are not working with volunteers at this time and our field staff are following updated monitoring protocols. We look forward to working with volunteers and other community members again as soon as it is safe for us to do so. Thank you, readers, for staying engaged and supporting the Estuary Program’s work during this difficult time.  Eelgrass Monitoring Anyone who has spent time on the bay this month may have noticed quite a few …

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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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