Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
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Join the Morro Bay Rain Gauge Network

In the photograph above, sediment erodes from a dirt road during a rainstorm. This sediment can enter streams and end up in the bay.

    Rain is in the forecast, which makes it a perfect time to debut our Rain Gauge Network. This new webpage will display rainfall data from the area surrounding Morro Bay and beyond. Now, we need you to join the network and help us gather that data. Why track rainfall? All precipitation that falls within the Morro Bay watershed can eventually make its way into the estuary through creeks and storm drains. This video shows runoff from roofs, streets, parking lots, etc. entering Morro Bay through a storm drain near the Estuary Program office. Runoff can contain sediment, bacteria, …

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2017 Estuary Program Volunteers of the Year

Mike Lindley, Monitoring Volunteer of the Year, doing one of the thin

  Each fall, we gather together with volunteers from different areas of our program to thank them for their hard work. This year, we gathered at the Old School House in the Los Osos Community Park. We shared pizza, cookies, stories, and heaps of gratitude for the hundreds of hours and immeasurable love of the bay that our volunteers give us each year. We were very grateful to local business for donating goodies for our free Volunteer Appreciation Raffle. Donors included Ascendo Coffee, ESTERO, Growing Grounds Downtown, Kayak Horizons, and Sunshine Health Food Store. Our volunteers are a very important …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Peregrine Falcon

Photo of peregrine falcon in flight near Morro Rock by Kevin Cole

 Photo of peregrine falcon in flight near Morro Rock by Kevin Cole.   The peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) is one of the largest falcons in North America. Their wingspan stretches up to 43 inches and they can weigh up to 3.4 pounds. Peregrine falcons are also the fastest animal in the world.  During their characteristic high-speed hunting dive—called a stoop—they have been clocked at 242 mph. (For a fascinating look at how Ken Franklin, a falconer, pilot, and skydiver clocked this speed, check out this article in Air and Space magazine.) When peregrine falcons were added to the California Endangered Species …

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Field Updates September 2017: Pikeminnow and Eelgrass

Collected seeds are held in mesh bags in the estuary until they mature. Mature seeds will have a hard, longitudinally ribbed coat and can vary in color, including olive, dark brown and black.

    Protecting and restoring the bay and estuary takes a lot of boots on the ground. See what our volunteers and field staff have been working on during the past month. Pikeminnow Management Chorro Creek used to be home to a healthy population of steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), however their numbers have declined. While there are multiple factors that contribute to this, a fish called the Sacramento pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus grandis) put pressure on steelhead. Pikeminnow eat juvenile steelhead and compete with steelhead for food and habitat. While native to other parts of California, pikeminnow are not native to the Morro …

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Be Sea-Otter Aware in Morro Bay

  Sea Otter Awareness Week is drawing to a close, but—lucky for residents and visitors—sea otters live in Morro Bay year-round. This story could have been different; sea otters were once hunted almost to extinction for their thick pelts. (They have about one-million hairs per square inch, which helps keep them warm in our cold waters.) They were so scarce that they were thought to be extinct along the California Coast. However, one small group of otters survived along the coast of Big Sur; this group was first sighted in the 1930s. The otters that you see in Morro Bay …

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Celebrating the Complexity of the Morro Bay Estuary

The back bay is totally inundated at this high king tide.

  National Estuaries Week runs through September 23 and celebrates the benefit we reap from our thriving coastal ecosystems. This has us thinking about how complex and special estuary ecosystems and the wildlife that thrives here are. Estuaries are places of transition. The salty tides wash in and out over the mud flats, inundating the marsh and mixing with the freshwater influx from upland streams. The plants and animals that live in the estuary and the habitats that border its edges have special adaptations to survive these changes. The time-lapse video above shows a complete twelve-hour tidal cycle in Morro Bay. (Video …

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Coastal Cleanup Day 2017

Here is a picture of the whole wonderful cleanup crew for 2017.

  Today was the 31st Coastal Cleanup Day. This international event is the largest annual volunteer event in California, and the Estuary Program is always happy to work with volunteers to pick up trash on the Morro Bay sandspit. This morning’s group of volunteers gathered early at Morro Bay Landing to hear from Sylvia, a California State Parks representative, about how snowy plovers use the sandspit and what we can do to help protect them. These small shorebirds are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and as a bird of special concern for the State of California. Morro Bay’s sandspit …

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Poison Oak: Nature’s Immune Response

    Guest post by Anders Johnson, Communications & Outreach Intern for Clean Boating. Anders grew up in Morro Bay and is an avid surfer and kayak fisherman. After receiving his B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology, he traveled abroad and worked on small farms. He has since returned to Morro Bay and is working on his M.S. in Resilient and Sustainable Communities. At the Estuary Program, Anders talks with boaters in the bay about the resources available to them to help keep our waters clean.   A quick hike beyond the concrete in Morro Bay will reveal …

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Field Updates August 2017: Eelgrass and Creeks

Matt, our Field Technician, works to identify and count the stages of the flowering shoots in a one-meter by one-meter plot.

  See what our volunteers and field staff have been working on during the past month. Eelgrass We completed our second round of 2017 small-scale experimental eelgrass transplanting in July, in collaboration with Cal Poly and California Sea Grant. In total, we planted seventeen one-meter by one-meter plots of eelgrass including nine in the forebay (across from the Tidelands boat launch) and eight in the midbay (across from Morro Bay Oyster Company). Though our midbay location was not as successful as the forebay site, we were able to glean useful information from these efforts, including which areas to target and …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: California Brown Pelicans

California Brown Pelicans are easy to spot in Morro Bay’s waters. They’re one of the biggest birds out there, larger than other subspecies of brown pelicans, though a bit smaller than white pelicans. Adults have a wingspan of about 6.5 feet, and they can weigh up to 11 pounds. They also dive in a big way. A pelican can begin its descent from up to 60 feet in the air, once it has spotted a fish with its keen eyes.   The impact of the pelican’s dive is lessened by air sacs beneath its skin, which also help to buoy …

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