Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
national estuary program

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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Photo Friday: Nature Photography Day in Morro Bay

The Morro Bay watershed is a wonderful place to stop, smell, and photograph wildflowers.

    June 15 is Nature Photography Day, which encourages people to get outside and explore the natural world with their cameras in hand. The Morro Bay estuary and the lands that surround it inspire many photographers and other artists to practice their craft. In honor of Nature Photography Day and the beauty of Morro Bay, we’re sharing some of our recent photos from around the bay and watershed. Western fence lizards, also called blue bellied lizards, are very common in California. One reason to take note of them is that they have a protein in their blood that kills the bacteria that …

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Field Updates May 2017: Bioassessment Surveys

Just three of our twenty-one great volunteers.

    As you know, 2017 has been a little rainy. Since the start of the 2017 water year, the county rain gauge at Camp SLO received 33.29″ of rain. This exciting water year has so far kept our staff busy collecting sediment samples, doing site checks to see if our equipment was still there and anxiously waiting for flows to subside to levels safe enough to monitor. This has also been enough rain to keep more sites wetted enough to conduct bioassessment surveys on. After a few years of only conducting about 5–7 surveys, for 2017 we had 12 …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Bat Rays

Estuary Program Monitoring staff got a good view of this bat ray while monitoring eelgrass beds.

  Bat rays (Myliobatis californica) are a key predator along the coast of California and Oregon. They can grow to six feet wide and weigh as much as 200 pounds, though most rays are smaller than this. The largest ray caught off the coast of California was recorded at 181 pounds. These fish eat a variety of foods including mollusks (like abalone and clams), invertebrates (like crabs), and some smaller fishes. They dig up clams by flapping their pectoral fins, which look like wings, to create suction, and then rooting in the sand with their snouts. Rays crush the clams whole, …

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