Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
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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: Coast Live Oak Woodlands

  Coast Live Oak Woodlands Are Unique Oak woodlands are so characteristic and unique to our state that many think the plant community should be declared California’s state vegetation type. 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! The term “woodland” is used instead of “forest” because the canopies in a woodland rarely overlap, allowing for more space and sunlight between trees. Woodlands also typically occur on drier soils and at lower elevations than forests. Where to find oak …

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Updates from the Field: Monitoring Eelgrass Expansion

Makenzie, Monitoring Coordinator, takes data while monitoring eelgrass in Morro Bay.

    The Morro Bay National Estuary Program’s fieldwork has been deemed an essential service by the County of San Luis Obispo. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, we are not working with volunteers at this time and our field staff are following updated monitoring protocols. We look forward to working with volunteers and other community members again as soon as it is safe for us to do so. Thank you, readers, for staying engaged and supporting the Estuary Program’s work on monitoring eelgrass expansion and other projects during this difficult time.  Green, green, everywhere! If you’ve been out on the …

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Community Scientists Make a Difference for Morro Bay

A plastic sand toy left on rocks at the beach.

  While not everyone can be a marine biologist, a meteorologist, or a conservation ecologist, anyone can contribute to the wealth of data that these experts use and study. Our own Monitoring program uses data gathered by community scientist volunteers and staff members to keep an eye on long-term trends in water quality, bacteria levels, and other factors that influence stream and bay health. (We are not working with volunteers at this time due to COVID-19 precautions, but we look forward to having our volunteers back in the field as soon as it’s safe to do so.) Today, we’re sharing …

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First Flush in the Morro Bay Watershed: What goes down the drain?

First Flush Embarcadero

    Each fall, many of us busily prepare for the first big rain of the wet season. Homeowners might clean out gutters and put away patio furniture. Cities often run their street sweepers and vacuum out storm drains to prevent flooding. This past fall, the Estuary Program prepared for what is known as First Flush monitoring. What’s the harm in a little runoff? In the course of daily life, pollutants build up on our streets and sidewalks. Things like oil spills from cars, fertilizer from landscaping, pet waste, and trash can gather. When the first big rain arrives, these …

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Western Monarchs Need Our Help: Monarch Migration and Population Decline

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.

Central Coast monarch butterfly sightings If you live on the Central Coast or visit during the fall or winter, you’ve likely seen monarch butterflies making their way along the annual migration path. Driving down the freeway, you might catch the bright orange and black flash of monarch wings as they flit as fast as they can across the road,  fighting the wind whipped up by traffic. These insect athletes are built for distance rather than speed. The Western monarch’s annual migration of up to 3,000 miles is the longest on record, but their estimated average flight speed of of 5.5 …

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Field Updates December 2020: Eelgrass Monitoring and Volunteer Monitoring Update

Monitoring eelgrass at a site near Morro Rock in December 2020.

The Morro Bay National Estuary Program’s fieldwork has been deemed an essential service by the County of San Luis Obispo. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, we are not working with volunteers at this time and our field staff are following updated monitoring protocols. We look forward to working with volunteers and other community members again as soon as it is safe for us to do so. Thank you, readers, for staying engaged and supporting the Estuary Program’s work during this difficult time.  Eelgrass Monitoring Anyone who has spent time on the bay this month may have noticed quite a few …

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Western Monarchs Need Our Help: Reasons for Monarch Decline and What You Can Do

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.

  Why western monarchs are disappearing In recent years, scientists have cited several reasons for the dramatic loss of Western monarch butterflies. A well-known and loved butterfly species that travels thousands of miles over multiple generations to escape the cold northern winters. Lack of native milkweed One reason for this reduction in numbers revolves around the loss of essential native milkweed plants along the monarchs’ migration path. These plants provide a place for the monarchs to lay their eggs and allow their larvae to feed on of them. Milkweed plants are also a food source for monarch caterpillars. By consuming …

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Help Scientists See the Future: California King Tides Project 2020 to 2021

This image shows the stairway to the beach at Tidelands Park. An ultra-low tide is pictured on the left and an ultra-high tide on the right.

  What is the California King Tides Project? Scientists need you to be their eyes on the ocean December 13–15, 2020 and—if you live north of Point Conception—January 11 and 12, 2021. On these dates, the California coast will experience King Tides, the highest tides of the year. These extreme tides often encroach on infrastructure, submerging coastal access stairways, swallowing beach-side trails, overwhelming boardwalks, surging into storm-drains, and flooding roads. They can also inundate coastal habitats that aren’t typically submerged, like higher marsh areas or even dune scrub. With the rate of sea level rise increasing worldwide, what we consider …

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