The goal of the ESNERR research program is to investigate estuarine ecosystems and their associated watersheds. In particular, we emphasize science that will help us to better conserve Elkhorn Slough and other estuaries. This estuarine conservation research includes long-term monitoring to detect changes over time, and short-term projects focused on understanding and diminishing threats to Slough habitats and communities.

Water Quality Report Card

Updated with 2015 data!

water quality report cardThe Elkhorn Slough estuary hosts diverse wetland habitats, wildlife and recreational activities. Such diversity depends to a great extent on the quality of the water. Good water quality supports healthy and diverse ecological communities while poor water quality is harmful to wildlife and habitats.

Water quality monitoring at over 20 wetland sites has identified areas of poor water quality and the factors contributing to these poor conditions.

See more…

In the News: Algal Mats

The study reveals that piles of green algae form mats along bank edges that leads to dieback of the salt marsh below. When the marsh plants die, the roots no longer help to hold the bank together causing large pieces of the bank to fall into the channel in response to strong tidal currents or wind-driven waves in the slough. The result: marshes convert to mudflats at the edges, and, in the face of sea level rise and low sediment volumes, the conversion is permanent.
Read more, including the paper, press release and news coverage of this research.

Research Spotlight

Estuaries and Coasts published a study conducted by the Reserve’s Research team lead by Rikke Jeppesen, Ph. D, which investigated how the lack of dissolved oxygen in the water affects fish and oysters in the slough.  Water control structures such as tide gates play a major role in managing water flow at the slough, but it does have impacts on water quality and life in the slough. Read the published study here.

Eelgrass Connections: Scientists studying the decline and recovery of seagrass beds at the Elkhorn Slough have found that recolonization of the estuary by sea otters was a crucial factor in the seagrass comeback.  Download the study here.

State of the Estuary Report


Scientists at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve keep their finger on the pulse of the estuary by monitoring a variety of indicators of ecosystem health, from water quality to acreage of key habitats to numbers of particular animals of interest.  Reserve volunteers serve as “citizen scientists”, collecting much of the data.  Every two years, the results are summarized in a State of the Estuary report, focusing on trends over time: determining whether conditions are stable, improving, or degrading.  State of The Estuary Report 2017 (posted 1/2017).