The official website of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Research Program

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.

2017 Elkhorn Slough Research Symposium presentations are available now.

2017 State of Estuary Report

Now available!

Are there more shorebirds at Elkhorn Slough now than a few years ago?  Is pollution getting better or worse?  These are the sorts of questions answered by the latest “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.  Download the 2017 State of the Estuary Report (posted 1/2017).

Water Quality Report CardWater Quality Report Card

The 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. Find out more...

Otter Research at Elkhorn Slough

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. Led by Ph.D. candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz, Brent Hughes at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of August 26, 2013. Download the study here.


sea otter being examinedUSGS Study: Starting September 2013, scientists hope to compile new data to support the recovery of the southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis). Using a variety of established study methods — radio tracking, veterinary exams, genetic analysis, diet observations — this collaborative group of scientists hopes to uncover new knowledge about this population of California’s iconic sea otters — a population that hasn’t been extensively studied for 15 years. Find out more at


ESNERR Research Questions

Download this document (ESNERR_research_questions_2013-10-21.pdf) with the major questions that ESNERR scientists will be addressing, through long-term monitoring and short-term applied research. These represent questions whose answers are critically needed for improving Elkhorn Slough area conservation, and which lend themselves to the expertise and resources of ESNERR.

Download this document (student_project_ideas_2013-10-22.pdf) containing interesting questions that could be addressed in term papers or thesis research.

Research Permits

Click here for a guide for researchers wishing to work in the coastal habitats of the Elkhorn Slough area near Moss Landing, California.

References about Elkhorn Slough

Download a list of references about Elkhorn Slough.
Download technical reports about Elkhorn Slough.

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This site is maintained by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation in partnership with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve