Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
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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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Help Scientists Track the Dwindling Population of Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies cluster on eucalyptus leaves in Sweet Springs Nature Preserve. Photograph courtesy of Michael "Mike" L. Baird, bairdphotos.com by Flickr Creative Commons license.

  Monarchs come to the Central California Coast when cool weather hits Starting in October, monarch butterflies fill the branches of eucalyptus, Monterey pines, and other trees along California’s Central Coast. They cluster together high above the ground, looking much like bunches of dead leaves unless you use a spotting scope to take a closer look, or catch a flash of their black and orange wings as a butterfly moves away from its cluster to a sunny spot where it will open its wings and take in the sun’s warmth. Monarch butterflies come here to ride out the winter in …

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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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Field Updates, October 2019: Eelgrass Mapping, Ground-truthing, and Cal Poly Partnerships

Andi, eelgrass technician.

  Eelgrass fieldwork depends on tides Fall is a busy eelgrass season for field staff at the Estuary Program. The exact timing of our field work depends on when the good low-tides occur, which varies slightly from year to year. This year, October had a few days that had tides low enough to expose the eelgrass during daylight hours. This doesn’t always happen—sometimes the low tides we need happen after sundown and before sunrise. We were glad to see good tides in combination with good timing because we have a few different projects going on. Monitoring permanent eelgrass plots First …

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Photograph Friday: Morro Baycam Favorites Summer 2019

Today we’re sharing some of our favorite Morro Baycam photographs from this summer. Enjoy!       Subscribe to our weekly blog to have posts like this delivered to your inbox each week. Help us protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary! Donate to the Estuary Program today and support our work in the field, the lab, and beyond. The Estuary Program is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. We depend on funding from grants and generous donors to continue our work. Support us by purchasing estuary-themed gear from ESTERO. This locally owned and operated company donates 20% of proceeds from its Estuary clothing line and 100% of Estuary decal proceeds …

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Be Sea Otter Savvy 3: More Than Just a Pretty Face

Adult sea otter eats a purple urchin.

This is the third post to our blog series, Be Sea Otter Savvy, written by Gena Bentall, sea otter biologist and Program Coordinator for Sea Otter Savvy. Posts in this series include tips on how to help sea otters thrive and information about sea otters’ behavior, biology, and their role in the estuary and ocean ecosystems. When I was a little girl holding my mom’s hand on the shore in Pacific Grove in 1970, looking out at two sea otters rising and falling on a gentle swell, I knew them only from their faces in books. I knew nothing of …

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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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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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