Scientists monitor conditions in San Elijo Lagoon.

Watching indicators of ecosystem health and function.

Conservancy scientists and trained volunteers are in the field: monitoring the conditions of multiple plant communities, wildlife populations, water quality, and hydrologic changes in the reserve. San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is one of San Diego's largest protected coastal wetlands at 915 acres. 

Our scientific monitoring program has two main objectives:

  • To obtain measurements of biological and physical conditions to estimate current condition and detect change.
  • To comply with regulatory permitting and grant requirements to document project success.

Our current monitoring activities include physical, chemical, and biological studies:


Conservancy staff maintain stream gauges on Escondido Creek and in San Elijo Lagoon to determine water quality and hydrologic changes due to activities in the upper watershed and surrounding development.

   Stream Gauge along Escondido Creek

We also collect continuous data from deployed data loggers to study water quality parameters like dissolved oxygen, salinity, temperature, turbidity, and depth which show tidal fluctuation.

For more than 20 years, Conservancy staff have conducted weekly water quality monitoring. Data is gathered at six locations throughout the reserve. We use this data in conjunction with data loggers (the data loggers are fixed at one location) to determine when we need to open the inlet (i.e., when the water quality parameters are below a threshold level for a number of sites, for a given amount of time).


Our dedicated birders conduct monthly volunteer bird surveys to determine bird species richness and abundance in the reserve.



Our volunteer birders out in the field.

We also conduct nesting bird surveys in conjunction with restoration projects, such as the Dunes Restoration Project.




Dune strand along San Elijo Lagoon.

Fish and invertebrate surveys are also conducted regularly to determine species richness and abundance.





Two dozen scientists conducted the first 24-hour Bioblitz species survey of San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve in 2009.

Staff scientists conduct surveys to determine treatment and re-vegetation success in conjunction with the Invasive Species Control Program.



White Sage in the reserve


Land Stewardship
Invasive Plants
Tidal Circulation
San Elijo Lagoon Restoration Project

2009 BioBlitz
In 2009, the conservancy hosted its first Bioblitz, a 24-hour inventory of all living organisms in San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. Dozens of scientists confirmed more than 735 species of fishes, spiders, insects, reptiles, mammals, birds, amphibians, plants, algae, and fungi.

Escondido Creek Conservation Parcels Bird Survey 

Staff scientists Barry Lindgren (left) and
Joel Kramer monitor environmental conditions.