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

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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Field Updates March 2021: Volunteer Monitoring Program Updates and Bioassessment Site Scouting

Monitoring staff conducts bioassessment site scouting in the Morro Bay watershed

  Read each month’s Field Updates post to see what our Monitoring Team have been up to.  Updates on the Volunteer Monitoring Program As of March 2nd 2021, San Luis Obispo County moved from the purple or “Widespread” tier back into the red tier. The Morro Bay National Estuary Program’s current COVID-19 Safety Policy allows for volunteer monitoring when the San Luis Obispo County risk level is at or below the red tier designation, as outlined by COVID19.ca.gov. As such, the Estuary Program has slowly begun inviting back volunteers in a limited capacity. We have coupled this change with additional …

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Bioassessment Survey Results 2020: Tracking the Health of Local Creeks

  One of the goals of the Estuary Program is to monitor the bay and the lands that surround it to better understand conditions and how they are changing over time. As part of this effort, the Estuary Program conducts spring bioassessment surveys. This data allows us to assess the health of our creeks and determine if they support sensitive aquatic life. What is bioassessment? Each spring, staff and volunteers head out to local creeks to collect habitat measurements. These measurements include the depth of the water, the size of the rocks in the stream, and the amount of tree cover …

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Morro Bay Watershed Native Plant Series: Maritime and Mixed Chaparral

  Where do chaparral plant communities grow? Covering almost nine percent of the state, chaparral is one of the most widespread plant communities in California. Take a look at our introductory post to the Morro Bay Native Plant Series, an exploration of our watershed’s diverse native flora! Where can I find chaparral plant communities in Morro Bay? In the Morro Bay watershed, we see chaparral plant communities occurring in close association with the southern coastal scrub community and on higher, drier slopes. Since they are typically further inland from the immediate coast, chaparral plants experience greater temperature fluctuations (hotter summers …

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Morro Bay Watershed Native Plant Series: Southern Coastal Scrub

    The Southern coastal scrub plant community is one of the most common plant communities found in our watershed. Not sure what a plant community is? Take a look at our introductory post to the Morro Bay Native Plant Series, an exploration of our watershed’s diverse native flora! Mediterranean climate Climatic conditions, soil type, topography, and other features determine what types of plants will grow in a particular region, and the coastal scrub plant community occurs on relatively dry soils in areas where a Mediterranean climate prevails. The Mediterranean climate exists along the Central Coast of California along with …

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Use Leave No Trace Principles on Your Next Morro Bay Excursion

    With COVID-19 still in the forefront of American life, many people have felt a draw to the outdoors as a place of solace. Whether you’re an outdoor pro or a complete newbie, it’s important to be mindful of the impact we have on the landscapes we seek refuge in. Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics developed a series of seven principles that outline how to minimize our impact.  These principles can be applied to any outdoor excursion, from spending an afternoon at the beach, to an overnight at a designated campground, to a remote backpacking trip. Seven …

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With Gratitude for the Morro Bay Estuary

A view of the estuary from Upper State Park Road. The channels are full from the high tide and also from runoff.

    Though much of our world has been turned upside down since the spring, forcing us to find new rhythms and ways to go about our days, the Morro Bay estuary remains unchanged. The black brant geese began arriving earlier this month, as they are wont to do this time of year. The shorebirds forage on the mudflats and in the pickleweed of the saltmarsh, seemingly without pause. The tides come in and go out every twelve hours. Watch this timelapse video of the tides coming in and going out of the Morro Bay estuary. While we have had …

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Tarantula Math: Where folklore meets meteorology

    Written by Makenzie O’Connor, Morro Bay National Estuary Program Monitoring Coordinator. Tarantula Math: Where folklore meets meteorology As someone relatively new to the Central Coast, I was entirely perplexed and intrigued by the concept of what our Monitoring Program Manager, Karissa Willits, calls: “Tarantula Math.” The phrase itself was exciting—partially because I never anticipated that “tarantula” and “math” would be in the same sentence, and partially because I couldn’t help but envision these furry, intelligent arachnids solving complex calculus equations. For those unfamiliar with “tarantula math,” this is the assumption that rain should follow tarantula sightings within three …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Brown Bears and Black Bears

    Black bear sighting in Los Osos A black bear (Ursus americanus) recently swam across the southern end of the Morro Bay estuary and made its way onto land in a residential area of Los Osos, near Pasadena Point. The bear spent some time napping in a tree before officials with California Fish and Wildlife tranquilized and transported it to the Los Padres National Forest. This incident reminded many of us that the lands surrounding Morro Bay are still wild and able to support large mammals, like black bears and mountain lions. Though black bears are omnivores and eat …

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Morro Bay Watershed Native Plant Series: Introduction

  Why do native plants thrive in the lands surrounding Morro Bay? The Morro Bay watershed is one of the most botanically diverse regions in California. This diversity can be traced back to the ice ages as California’s coastline receded and advanced over thousands of years, and the tectonic plates settled into their current position. Many communities and species of plants have evolved here as a result of such active geologic change. These plant communities have continued to exist and thrive because San Luis Obispo County still resembles its natural state, despite increasing human habitation and land use development. Because …

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