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

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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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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