Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
water quality

Field Updates December 2021: Water Quality Monitoring and Local Steelhead Populations

A steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) was captured from the Chorro Creek sub-watershed and measured before safely being released back into the water.

Steelhead in the Morro Bay Watershed  One of the fascinating creatures living in our local creeks is the South Central California Coast Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss). This genetically-distinct population of steelhead is found exclusively from the Pajaro River to the Santa Maria River, and while historically abundant, they were listed as “Threatened” by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 1997 due to rapidly declining numbers. This species continues to struggle due to habitat loss, lack of water, and competition with invasive species.   Steelhead belong to the Salmonidae family, along with other species of trout and salmon. Steelhead are anadromous, meaning they are born in freshwater streams, migrate out to sea for several years, and …

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Field Updates October 2021: First Rain, Groundwater Recharge, and Runoff

A full stream runs after the October 2021s storm.

First rain! The Morro Bay watershed received its first rainfall for the new water year on October 24! A local rain gauge at Canet Road off Highway 1 in the Morro Bay watershed recorded 2.32 inches of rainfall over a three-day period. Local rain gauge network The Estuary Program has a local rain gauge network that compiles rainfall data and tracks hyper-local trends. This network relies on citizen scientists to gather rainfall data from their yards, schools, businesses, offices, or any outside space where a small rain gauge can sit undisturbed and collect the rain. If you’re not already a …

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Bioassessment 2021: the results are in! How healthy are local creeks? Plus a new video!

Click here to watch the new bioassessment video now, or find it at the end of this post.   Annual bioassessment monitoring tells us about creek health Each spring, the Estuary Program heads up a bioassessment monitoring effort in our local creeks. The data helps us understand the health of our creeks and how conditions are changing over time. The effort has two main components. We collect benthic macroinvertebrates, which are bottom-dwelling animals visible to the naked eye that lack a backbone. These include creatures such as stoneflies, dragonflies, and aquatic snails. We also collect habitat measurements such as whether …

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Day in the Life of a Marine Chemistry Research Student: Testing Ocean Chemistry in Morro Bay

This student measures for pH

    Guest post by Natalie Dupree   Dr. Emily Bockmon’s Ocean Chemistry Research Group As an undergraduate chemistry student at Cal Poly, there were numerous research groups to consider joining.  I chose to join Dr. Emily Bockmon’s research group, which is unique because it unites students from many disciplines under one common goal—to better understand the chemistry and impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on our Central Coast. Biologists, marine scientists, and chemists come together to collect data to support the scientific community and the community of Morro Bay to preserve and protect our bay and estuary. This …

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Field Updates May 2021: Spring Eelgrass Monitoring

Makenzie, our Monitoring Projects Coordinator, at our site located on the Sandspit. Staff access the site via stand up paddle boards

  A quick introduction… Hi everyone! My name is Bret, and I am the new Monitoring Projects Manager for the Estuary Program. I’m a recent transplant from the Midwest, but the West Coast has been calling to me for quite some time. As I get settled here in Morro Bay, I look forward to learning more about our estuary as well as how to be a steward of our watershed. I arrived in Morro Bay at the beginning of April, just in time for bioassessment (you can read more about bioassessment in our April Field Updates blog post). I really …

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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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Field Updates January 2021: Wildlife, Rainfall, and Flow Monitoring

A San Diego Dorid in eelgrass.

    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.  What’s Living in the Eelgrass? Estuary Program staff have continued to monitor eelgrass into January 2021, …

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Continuous Water Temperature Monitoring in Our Creeks

Closeup of a tidbit

    The Morro Bay National Estuary Program (Estuary Program) monitors the water quality of local creeks using a variety of different indicators, including dissolved oxygen, flow, pH and conductivity (which is a measure of the ability of water to pass an electrical current). Staff and volunteers collect this data on a monthly to bimonthly basis. Continuous data loggers track temperature For other parameters, such as water temperature, the Estuary Program uses continuous data loggers that record water temperature at thirty-minute intervals. This continuous dataset allows us to see the specific time and day when water temperatures begin to rise …

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Bioassessment 2020: Highlights from the Season

Giant Water Bugs, also known as “Toe-Biters,” are large invertebrate predators with a powerful bite! Females typically deposit their eggs onto the males’ back, and the male “Toe-Biter” keeps the eggs safe until they hatch.

  As many of our readers and volunteers know, our spring bioassessment season is one of the major monitoring efforts of the year. We use a state-wide protocol that includes detailed habitat measurements and macroinvertebrate collection to assess creek health. Volunteers are an integral part of this effort. Our volunteers come to us from all walks of life, from seniors to college students and everything in between. We kick off the season with an orientation, and then volunteers join us on our surveys. Each season we usually have about 20 volunteers helping us monitor ten sites, collecting over 1,000 data points per site. Spring 2020: a …

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Field Updates September, 2019: Stream Profiling and Bay Monitoring

  Fall is in full effect here on the Central Coast, and we are enjoying the crisp mornings and clear days that go along with it. Fall is typically the slowest time of year for fieldwork so we are mostly catching up on activities back here at the office and planning upcoming projects, but that’s not to say we haven’t been out in the field this month. Thank you, cleanup volunteers! We hope some of you got out this month for Creeks to Coast Cleanup Day, where nearly 2,000 wonderful volunteers picked up about 11,500 pounds of trash from our …

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