Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
morro bay national estuary program

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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Hike from Home: Shark Inlet Hike

The trail to Shark Inlet is a hidden gem, known among the locals for its accessibility to the dunes. It is a short family friendly stroll that has lots of beautiful vegetation along the way. Here is what you have to look forward to once this time passes and we’re all able to get back out on the trail.   This trail is short, but lovely! Here is a map of the trail.  Finding the trail head  Pretend you are heading from San Luis Obispo toward Montana de Oro on Los Osos Valley Road, then turn right onto Monarch Lane. You’ll take Monarch Lane until it ends and the trail-head is right there.  This is what the start of the trail looks like. Since this hike starts in …

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Field Updates March 2020: Rain, Storm Flow, Eelgrass Restoration

Storm clouds over the Morro Bay estuary

The Rain Returns March brought more rain after a dry February, with the San Luis Obispo CIMIS rain gauge receiving 5.75″ of precipitation. This helped increase the flow of creeks throughout our watershed and brings our total up to 12.36″ of rain since the start of the water year in October, 2019. Check out this link to learn more about water years, and to read some highlight about the 2019 water year. Surface flow and storm flow Around Morro Bay, different creeks maintain varying levels of surface water flow. This means that some creeks have no visible surface water flow, …

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Join the Morro Bay Rain Gauge Network to Track Local Precipitation

In light of the recent rainstorms we’ve had locally, we invite you to participate in tracking precipitation at your home, work, or school through our Morro Bay Rain Gauge Network. This is an easy way to help gather important data from home, and a great project for families or classes to take on together. Keep reading for background information about why scientists track precipitation, how stormwater affects the Morro Bay watershed, and how you can join the Morro Bay Rain Gauge Network. How scientists track precipitation A water year is a twelve-month period of time that begins October 1 of …

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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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Field Updates January 2020: Eelgrass Success and Creek Water Quality

This month, our field staff have been busy monitoring eelgrass success in the bay and water quality in the creeks that drain to the Morro Bay estuary. Eelgrass monitoring and restoration success If you spent time out on the bay in January, you might have noticed the really high tides. January 2020 had King Tides, meaning that the high tides were much higher than normal. These extreme high tides are mirrored by extreme low tides. We always take advantage of these extreme low tides to monitor eelgrass, as we have a wider window than normal to conduct our monitoring. Eelgrass …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Balls of Spines (AKA Sea Urchins)

  Is it a ball? Is it a Pokémon? Nope, it’s a sea urchin! Sea urchins, even though common, are really cool! In Morro Bay, there are mainly two species, purple sea urchin and red sea urchin. The biggest difference between the two is their size and color. Red sea urchins can reach up to five inches in diameter whereas purple sea urchins reach only two inches in diameter. The most common species is the pacific purple sea urchin, also known as Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Sea urchins use their spikes and poison as a defense mechanism. The poison is located at …

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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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