Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
morro bay national 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 …

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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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Exploring Abundance and Balance in the Morro Bay Estuary with Sea Otters, Whale Falls, and Bait Balls

  We are grateful for the many people—volunteers, supporters, partners, lovers of the bay and the wild lands that surround it—who make the health of the Morro Bay estuary a priority. We are grateful for the slopes of the Morros that send freshwater running down the creeks, carrying detritus to feed the bugs, bringing bugs to the fish, and tempering the salty bite of the incoming tide when the waters mix inside the bay. If the video above doesn’t load, click here to watch a timelapse of a twelve-hour tide cycle in Morro Bay. We are grateful for the push …

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A Sea Slug by Any Other Name, Guest Post by Robin Agarwal

Acanthodoris lutea nudibranch smells like citrus or cedar

This is the fifth post in our Sea Slug of the Month series by guest author, Robin Agarwal. A Sea Slug by Any Other Name: One Grossly Derivative Title Covering Three Random Thoughts About Scented Sea Slugs, Hopkins’s Rose, and the Ongoing Bother About Names “that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet” —Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare Although she was not particularly noted for her tidepool explorations, Juliet may have been surprised to discover that three of the nudibranchs (shell-less marine molluscs) living along the Central California Coast actually emit scents …

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Family-Friendly Hikes Around Los Osos

Looking down the descent from Broderson Peak. Photograph from HikesPeak.com

    The land that surrounds the Morro Bay estuary is contoured by hills and valleys, studded with trees, and etched by creeks that take their time winding down to the salt marsh and entering bay. In short, it is a beautiful place that offers many opportunities to get outside and explore. But, as temperatures dip and the sun starts to set earlier in the day, many of us spend more time inside than out. Studies show that making time to enjoy the natural spaces around us by hiking, walking, or even just visiting with friends in green spaces can …

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The “Smalls”: The Teeniest, Tiniest Sea Slugs In California

Guest post by Robin Agarwal   This is the fourth post in our Sea Slug of the Month series. Find tips for spotting nudibranchs from the comfort of your local dock at the end of this post! So you’ve been tidepooling along your local reefs and you’ve found a few nudibranchs: Opalescents, Sea Lemons, Spanish Shawls, Hopkins’s Rose, Triophas. Maybe you’ve practically tripped over ginormous squishy Sea Hares. Boring, right? What a snooze, all those flamboyant colors, shapes, and bizarre anatomy. After all, those nudibranchs are over an inch long, and therefore way too easy to find.  If this is …

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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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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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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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