Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
national estuary program

Preview Sea Level Rise with King Tides in Morro Bay

    The highest tides of the year are on their way. These tides, commonly called King Tides, often encroach on infrastructure along California’s coast. They submerge stairways to the beach, overwhelm boardwalks, surge into storm-drain systems, flood roads, and even crash against the windows of waterfront buildings. Read on to see what causes these tides, how they affect Morro Bay, why they matter, and what you can do to help. (Read all the way through to find info on our Morro Bay King Tides Photo Contest.) What causes King Tides These exceptionally high tides occur each winter when: Earth …

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Photograph Friday: Elfin Forest

    The El Moro Elfin Forest is full of surprises. Although it lies just on the edge of a neighborhood, near a school, and close to busy South Bay Boulevard, it feels a world apart. The winding boardwalk path brings you to lookout points high above the estuary and salt marsh and then pulls you deep under the cover of pygmy live oaks in Rose’s Grove. And, though the preserve covers only 90 acres, it boasts eight distinct habitat types. (You can read about some of these distinct plant communities in our Native Plant blog series.) Each season brings new …

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Photograph Friday: Baycam Favorites from Summer and Fall 2018

Sunsets over the bay can be bring both bright light and an abundance of long shadows.

  The Estuary Program’s Morro Bay webcam, or Baycam as we call it, has what some might consider the perfect job. No matter the day or the hour, it watches life unfold on the bay, without any particular goal in mind.  It observes the scene as clouds move, fog rolls in and out, the moon and sun chase each other across the sky, and boats bob and dance as the tides change. It sees every single sunrise and sunset, capturing photographs along the way. In today’s Photograph Friday post, we’ll share some of our favorite Baycam pictures from this summer …

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Rain Comes to Morro Bay at the Start of a New Water Year

First rain of the water year Rain returned to the Central Coast this week, bringing precipitation totals between one third of an inch and six tenths of an inch within the Morro Bay estuary watershed. This storm came after a six-month break in significant precipitation and just after the October 1 start of the new, 2019 water year. A water year is a twelve-month period of time that begins October 1 of one calendar year and ends September 30 of the next. The reason that the water year differs from the calendar year is that, in many places, precipitation that falls …

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Coastal Cleanup Day Volunteers

A fun family competition lead to this group of dedicated volunteers picking up 664 cigarette butts. Wow!

    Thousands of volunteers participated in local Coastal Cleanup Day events Coastal Cleanup Day calls family and friends together to tend to the health of California’s coast by picking up trash and recycling. For the past fourteen years, local nonprofit ECOSLO has organized the cleanup efforts countywide. This year, 1,312 volunteers picked up 5,688 pounds of trash and recycling from 36 cleanup sites. Ten of those sites were located inland. This might seem odd, but trash left on the ground storm drains that are miles from the beach run into creeks that empty directly into bays or the open …

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Field Updates July 2018: Reports, Mollusks in Eelgrass, and Fish in the Creeks

We commonly spot this nudibranch, Hermissenda crassicornis, in depressions along the mudflat.

    Fulfilling our mission to protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary for people and animals requires a lot of hard work in the field. At the Estuary Program, that often means spending time doing research and monitoring work out on the water. Read on to see what we’ve been up to during the past month. Data and reporting July was a quiet month for fieldwork. This has given the monitoring staff time to get caught up on data entry and report writing. Keep an eye out for a series of reports related to the health of the estuary …

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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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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: Swell Shark

Swell shark closeup by Josh More, via Flickr.

    Movies like Jaws and Sharknado can make sharks seem like mindless killing machines—even the dramatic music typically used to accompany footage of sharks has been shown to affect our perception of them. Despite their deadly pop culture image, the more scientists study sharks, the more they find that humans are not their intended prey. While species like great whites might “sample bite” humans, they rarely pursue people after that first bite. In fact, many shark attacks seem to be a case of mistaken identity, where the shark takes a surfer, paddler, or swimmer for a sea lion or …

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Field Updates June 2017

This dragonfly landed on a tree leaf, allowing us to see its intricate wing detail up close.

See what our volunteers and staff have been working on in the bay and watershed during the past month. Bioassessment The 2017 Bioassessment field season extended from April all the way into June. In June, we completed the final two surveys and then shipped off our bugs to the lab! We expect to have the bug scores sometime in the fall. One of our last surveys was on Upper Chorro Creek. The riparian corridor was teeming with dragonflies. Dragonflies are in the Order Odonata, which vary greatly in their tolerance level. Though the presence of these primitive creatures doesn’t necessarily …

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