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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

OMSI Science Pub: Sea Otters – Bringing Oregon’s Climate Change Warriors Back (6/21/22)

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Sea Otters: Bringing Oregon’s Climate Change Warriors Back with Bob Bailey, Elakha Alliance Board President and Chanel Hason, Elakha Alliance Director of Outreach and Community Relations and marine biologist

Point Lobos Foundation

June 21, 2022 7-9PM, Doors @ 6PM
McMenamins Kennedy School
736 NE 33rd Ave, Portland, OR 97211

Get tickets to this event.

Imagine spotting a raft of furry sea otters floating atop a thick bull kelp forest canopy along Oregon’s rocky coast, what a sight it would be! Sadly, sea otters have been an absent predator along the Oregon coast for over a century, due to being hunting to near extinction during the maritime fur trade. Their return to Oregon would be extremely beneficially culturally, economically, and ecologically. Previous sea otter reintroduction efforts have been successful in California, Washington, and British Columbia. Now, the Elakha Alliance is working towards returning these once native marine mammals back to OregonThe Elakha Alliance is a non-profit organization based in Oregon, made up of tribal, conservation, and non-profit leaders working towards returning sea otters to Oregon.

This talk will feature Chanel Hason, a marine biologist and Director of Outreach & Community Relations for the Elakha Alliance, highlight why sea otters are a keystone species in the nearshore marine ecosystem, and how that benefits climate change. The talk will also highlight the current status of sea otters returning to Oregon, with a summary from Elakha Alliance’s Board President, Bob Bailey regarding the results from their recently published Feasibility Study.

If you are unable to join us in person, you can join us on zoom. You must register in advance- Register Here.

Questions? Email sciencepub@omsi.edu

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Cultural and Ecological Recovery of Sea Otters Presentation at OSU (5/17/22)

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Learn why sea otters are important to the Indigenous peoples of Oregon.

This presentation is free and open to the public on Tuesday May 17th, from 12:00pm-1:00pm. It will take place on the Oregon State University Campus at the Kaku-Ixt Mana Ina Haws Building – 311 SW 26th St, Corvallis, OR, 97331. 

Elakha (ee-LAK-uh) is a Chinook trading language word for sea otter, which were once plentiful in Oregon’s coastal waters. The Elakha Alliance was formed in 2018 by tribal, nonprofit, and conservation leaders with a shared belief in a powerful vision: an Oregon coast 50 years from now where our children and grandchildren co-exist along with a thriving sea otter population and a robust and resilient marine ecosystem.

Dr. Peter Hatch and Chanel Hason from the Elakha Alliance will share accomplishments and next steps for restoring Oregon sea otters, relatives to the Siletz peoples. After the lecture, everyone is welcome to join OSU students in a discussion and writing project about cultural and ecological recovery.  

Peter Hatch is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and works in the tribe’s Cultural Resources office. He’s been fishing, clamming, and crabbing in Lincoln County his entire life, and he wants to ensure that his descendants can always do the same. He serves at the secretary of the Elakha Alliance Board of Directors.

Chanel Hason is the Director of Outreach & Community Relations at Elakha Alliance and has a rich background in marine biology, animal husbandry, and environmental education. She is an otter alum from CSU Monterey Bay and volunteered with sea and river otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. She’s conducted marine science research on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and worked for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program at the Ritz Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico. She moved to Oregon in 2016 to obtain her MS in Sustainability Education from Portland State University.

Sponsored by Kaku-Ixt Mana Ina Haws, Spring Creek Project, and the PAX 301 STS Peace Strategies class.

Learn more on the OSU Event Page.

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Blog

Support Healthy Kelp Forests & Sea Otters this Mother’s Day

Sea otter moms raise their pups on their own without the help of males or other females. A mother sea otter will give birth at sea and then be a 24/7 caregiver for her new offspring as he or she transforms, over the next 6-8 months, from a helpless bundle of fur into a young sea otter ready to make it alone in the ocean. As any parent can relate, these months of dependency can be physically taxing, and sea otter moms will be pushed to their survival limits by the time their pup becomes independent. We appreciate a sea otter mother’s unwavering dedication to raising their young.

Original artwork by Marina Larson.

This week, we have a very special way you can honor someone for Mother’s Day. We’ve partnered with Marina Larson, who is an Oregon State University student studying Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences. Marina is also an excellent artist and the daughter of Dr. Shawn Larson, Curator of Conservation Research at the Seattle Aquarium + co-author of our Feasibility Study. In honor of her mother and all the hard work she has done to advocate for sea otters and healthier kelp forest ecosystems, Marina has graciously donated to the Elakha Alliance an absolutely stunning underwater kelp forest painting to raffle off this week! She’s working right now on the finishing touches, but it will be completed soon.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

The Latest on Sea Otter Reintroduction in Oregon (5/3/2022)

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Interested in learning more about why we are trying to bring sea otters back to Oregon?

Karen Hall, Morro Bay

Who is the Elakha Alliance? Why aren’t sea otters in Oregon? How do you reintroduce sea otters exactly? Where would you release sea otters in Oregon? How? Why?

Let us help answer the many questions revolving sea otter reintroduction efforts in Oregon with Bob Bailey, the Board President of the Elakha Alliance.

This webinar will take place on Tuesday May 3rd, 2022 at 7pm PDT. Please use the form below to register for the Zoom link.

Categories
Blog Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Elakha Alliance Offers Paid Summer Internships to Tribal College Youth in Oregon

The Elakha Alliance is seeking to fill two paid Full Time Summer Internship positions for tribal youth to support the mission to reintroduce sea otters back to the Oregon coast. If necessary, we will also entertain the opportunity to hire one Full Time Summer Intern, coupled with two Part Time Summer Interns. We are seeking undergraduate students along the central Oregon coast, and southern Oregon coast who identify themselves as Indigenous.

The Elakha Alliance received funding from the Siletz Tribal Community Foundation and the Spirit Mountain Community Fund to support these Internships for tribal youth. This is a very exciting opportunity for learning and growth within the younger tribal members regarding elakhas’ (sea otters’) deeply rooted cultural ties to Oregon.

To view the full Internship descriptions and find the application form, click here. Applications will close on May 23rd, 2022.

Categories
Blog Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Elakha Alliance Seeks an Executive Director

We are pleased to announce that the Elakha Alliance is searching for our first Executive Director. This position will play a key role to furthering the efforts of the Elakha Alliance’s mission of reintroducing sea otters back to Oregon.

Download the job description & application here, or see full description below. Review of applications will begin May 15th, 2022.


Job Announcement
April 15, 2022
Full-Time Executive Director, Elakha Alliance

About the Elakha Alliance
The Elakha Alliance is an Oregon-based nonprofit that includes conservationists, academics, lawyers, tribal members, and scientists. The Elakha Alliance’s mission is to restore a healthy population of sea otters (Enhydra lutris) to the Oregon coast, and to thereby make Oregon’s marine and coastal ecosystem more robust and resilient.

“Elakha” is the Chinook trading language word for sea otter. These mammals were once plentiful in coastal waters all along the Pacific Coast. For thousands of years, sea otters and coastal native peoples had strong relationships with each other and the nearshore marine environment. But in the 1700s and 1800s sea otters were decimated by hunting for their pelts, and by 1910 they were eliminated from Oregon.

Since then a catastrophic loss of kelp forests has occurred along the Pacific Coast due to a superabundance of herbivorous sea urchins and a super deficiency of their main predators, sea stars and sea otters. Until apex predators are returned, the urchins will continue to clearcut our kelp forests, resulting in loss of fish and invertebrate species diversity, carbon sequestration capacity, and ecosystem health and economic services. The goal of the Elakha Alliance is to reverse these trends. Reintroducing sea otters to Oregon is a logical step — perhaps the only ecologically and practically sound proactive step available — for restoring and sustaining the West Coast’s magnificent underwater forests and their denizens.

The Elakha Alliance is governed by a board of directors (currently with 12 members). The Elakha Alliance is also served by an External Advisory Council, from which it seeks regular guidance. The “executive” function of the organization has been filled since the organization’s 2018 founding by Board President, Bob Bailey, who has overseen a variety of contractors and a single employee (Outreach and Community Relations Director). Having raised and set aside sufficient funds, the Elakha Alliance board has determined the time is ripe to transition to a more traditional nonprofit leadership model by hiring its first Executive Director.

The Elakha Alliance is in the third year of implementing a five year Strategic Plan. A copy of this plan is available from Jonathan@ElakhaAlliance.org. This Strategic Plan and our recently completed Feasibility Study will guide and focus the activities of the Executive Director (E.D.).

General Attributes Sought for the Position
The single most important attribute for Elakha’s E.D. is the aspiration for, and unwavering commitment to, returning sea otters to the Oregon Coast.

To help the Elakha Alliance achieve this goal, we seek an entrepreneurial, strategic thinking
individual with excellent communication skills. The individual must be adaptable, and able to respond positively to opportunities and changing circumstances. The individual also must be an affable and outgoing “team player” who will reinforce Elakha’s collaborative leadership style and motivate others within and outside the organization to embrace our shared vision. The E.D. will be expected to work closely and collaboratively with the Board President as duties transition, while also working with the Board of Directors as a whole, Elakha scientific advisors, the Elakha
External Advisory Council, interested Tribes, and Elakha employees and contractors.

Must Have Skills and Experience

● Demonstrable success in fundraising (grant writing, individual donors, and corporate sponsors)

● Previous management or leadership experience with a nonprofit organization, government agency, or equivalent environment

● Experience working in roles that involve some combination of public policy development, science, and advocacy

● Experience working with Tribes and government agencies

● Capability of planning for, implementing, and documenting activities of a small organization without support staff

● Ability to communicate clearly and effectively in formal and informal settings, including via writing, public speaking, and one-on-one interactions

● Comfortable learning about scientific advances and using the best science available to guide planning of projects and their implementation

● Willingness to travel to attend meetings, interact with agency employees, external advisors, donors, etc. Access to a vehicle and valid driver’s license are essential

Desirable Skills and Experience

● Knowledge of marine ecology, especially the role of sea otters in nearshore ecosystems

● Knowledge of Oregon coastal politics, players, and geographies

● Experience with personnel management and human resources

● Experience with nonprofit or agency budgeting and financial management

● Experience with nonprofit or agency communications (presentations, video, online)

● Experience interacting with a nonprofit Board of Directors

● Experience communicating via web pages, social media, and other online methods

Specific Responsibilities of the Position
Note: the job responsibilities listed below are for 2022. If/when funds are raised to add additional staff/contractors, the Executive Director and board leadership will adjust these as deemed appropriate at the time.

Fundraising. The E.D. is the chief development officer – i.e., the person with overall responsibility for fundraising to support the organization. Duties will include identifying and cultivating relationships with potential individual, foundation, and agency donors; preparing, submitting, and tracking grant proposals to private foundations, government agencies, individuals, and other potential funders; submitting required performance and close-out documents; and assisting Board members in fundraising within their personal networks.

Finances: The E.D. is the chief financial officer. Duties will include budgeting and reporting, in concert with an outside bookkeeping firm; consulting with the Treasurer, and Board committees, and members to ensure the financial health and integrity of the organization; providing monthly financial reports to the Board; and ensuring that adequate and legally required financial records are kept and made available to Board members, outside auditors, and government agencies.

Human Resources: The E.D. is the chief human resources officer. As of April 2022, key employees/contractors are a full-time Outreach and Community Relations Director and a three quarters time South Coast Liaison. Human Resources duties will include hiring and supervising employees and contractors; maintaining employee and contractor records; cultivating positive and respectful relationships with employees and contractors; assisting employees and contractors in maintaining and improving their job performance, including updating job descriptions as necessary; and conducting annual, written evaluations of employees and contractors (i.e., evaluations that provide opportunities for feedback from
evaluees, including suggestions to the E.D. about how to improve his/her own job performance).

Science and Policy: The E.D. is the chief scientific officer. Duties will include promoting the scientific rationale for the mission of the organization and consulting/contracting with scientific and technical committees and other scientific and policy experts to ensure that the strategic objectives of the organization are being met.

Strategic Planning: The E.D. is the chief strategic planner. Duties will include periodically reviewing the Strategic Plan to evaluate progress; collaborating with the Board President and Board as a whole to ensure that Elakha’s mission and operations continue to be aligned with the Strategic Plan; and consulting with the Board and, as needed, outside individuals, organizations, and agencies to make judicious amendments to the Strategic Plan.

Communications and Partner Engagement: The E.D. leads interactions between Elakha and its external advisors. Duties will include creating and maintaining clear and productive communications with Alliance partners, participants, and donors; quarterly reporting to the external Advisory Council and others on the activities of the organization; and making judicious decisions about when to seek advice and engagement from the Board, Advisory Council members, agency employees, and other external partners.

Board Engagement: The E.D. reports to the Board, while working to deepen board engagement in the organization. Duties will include scheduling, organizing, and participating in Board meetings and other committee meetings as needed; maintaining positive and supportive professional and personal relationships with Board members; collaborating with the Board President and the Board as a whole in strategic planning, fundraising, and other matters; and helping to recruit new Board members as needed.

Compensation and Benefits

● Starting salary range is $90-$110K, negotiable based on qualifications and experience

● Starting Health Care stipend of $400 per month

● Generous vacation and wellness benefits

Office
The Elakha Alliance is a virtual organization, with no fixed office. We expect the Executive Director to provide a home office or an equivalent remote location for their work with access to communication devices (e.g., a laptop, cell phone, printer).

How to Apply and the Selection Process
Please submit a resume and a cover letter. The cover letter should address:

● What motivated you to apply for Elakha’s E.D. position

● How your skills and experience match up with Elakha’s needs

● How your skills and experience match up with specific responsibilities of the position

● The date you could commence working

Submit your materials to Elakha’s strategic advisor, Jonathan Poisner (jonathan@elakhaalliance.org).

Review of applications will begin on May 15, 2022. Finalists will be interviewed by the Search Committee. The search will remain open until the position is filled.

The Elakha Alliance is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. All qualified candidates will receive consideration regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender, race, color, age, or any other characteristic. The Elakha Alliance is committed to reflecting the diversity of Oregon’s communities in our Board, employees, and contractors. We strive to ensure that our internal culture, business practices, and programs are welcoming and advance our diversity goals.

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Blog Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Meet our New South Coast Community Liaison

Frank Burris’ first love has always been wildlife management, so he is retiring from OSU Extension Service at the end of March, and starting a new job in April working with the Elakha Alliance as our South Coast Community Liaison to help return sea otters back to Oregon.

Frank has served as Watershed Management Educator for the OSU Extension Service and Oregon Sea Grant since 2000, and has been County Leader of the Curry County OSU Extension office since 2007. His interests include: water quality, wetland and estuary education and restoration, and tourism and economic development. A short assignment as Interim Coastal Region Director, a special assignment with the Association of Oregon Counties working as the Mid-Coast Coordinator to improve and complete the Oregon Coast Trail, and serving as facilitator for the Rocky Habitat selection process, helped broaden Franks knowledge of the coast and the people working to protect and preserve its beauty and strong sense of community.

In his spare time, Frank enjoys riding his bicycle, floating rivers, bird watching with his lovely wife, Jan, and flying. They live in Gold Beach, Oregon with their dog, Maddy. We are pleased to have you join the team, Frank!

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Relationships Between Elakha & Sense of Place on Oregon’s South Coast – SWOCC Speaker Series (4/4/2022)

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Event is Free to Students and Community Members

This Conference is dedicated to the life and legacy of Chief Don Ivy. Chief Ivy was an esteemed member of the Elakha Alliance Board, and a wonderful voice for ocean conservation. When Chief Ivy was recognized as the Southwestern Oregon Community College’s Distinguished Alumnus in the Spring of 2021, several individuals associated with the Elakha Alliance were in the virtual audience. The idea of hosting an event on the south coast involving Elakha and sense of place was brought up. Following Don’s passing in July. 2021 we began to plan a conference dedicated to many of the tenets that Chief Ivy lived by, among them: recognizing the cultural identity of Native Peoples of the region, supporting education, improving community and fostering a greater awareness for land stewardship. It is our intent that those attending this conference will go forward with a better “sense of place”. It is also our hope, that like Don, we will all go out and “think deeply, make an impact, share our knowledge and go on to encourage others to do the same.”

This event will take place Saturday April 16th, from 1-4pm. We expect to be live in the Hales Center for the Performing Arts on the Coos Bay campus and also streaming via Livestream at the college website. For full details, please visit this website.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Sharing Space with Sea Otters: A Case Study of Coexistence in a Crowded World (3/29/22)

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Balancing Sea Otter &
Human Interactions

The Elakha Alliance is thrilled to invite Sea Otter Savvy‘s Founder and Director, Gena Bentall, and Science Communication Director, Heather Barrett, to tell the story of the return of sea otters to a human-occupied California coast and the challenges of balancing the needs of wildlife and people in a changing world.

This webinar will take place on Tuesday March 29th, 2022 at 6pm PDT. Please use the form below to register for the Zoom link.

Speaker Bios:

Heather Barrett & Gena Bentall

Since 2001, Gena has worked as a sea otter biologist, studying sea otters in such wide-ranging locations as the Aleutian Islands, Russia’s Commander Islands, San Nicolas Island off the coast of Southern California, and along the Central California coast. After years of studying sea otters in the wild, Gena has learned much about their unique biology and behavior and witnessed first-hand the chronic nature of disturbance by human recreation activities. In early 2014 she first began to pursue the idea of organizing a program specifically dedicated to alleviating this chronic disturbance through education.  Gena has directed the Sea Otter Savvy program since 2015 and currently serves as Director and President of the Board of Directors.

Heather’s interest in sea otter conservation and ecology has developed through her undergraduate degree at UC Santa Cruz, internship through the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and graduate research at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. As the Science Communication Director of Sea Otter Savvy,  Heather refines science communication strategies, oversees creation and promotion of science-related materials, leads science-related media relations, and develops special projects for outreach. As the Research Scientist, Heather continues her research interests in human disturbance to sea otters.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Oregon Otter Beer Festival (3/12/22)

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What’s more Oregon than an otter-themed craft beer festival benefiting marine ecosystems?!

When: Saturday March 12th, 6:30pm-10:00pm
Where: Oregon Museum of Science & Industry
1945 SE Water Ave, Portland, OR 97214

THE EVENT IS SOLD OUT

Join the Elakha Alliance for our 1st Annual Oregon Otter Beer Festival! Taste 13 unique otter themed beers from Oregon breweries, where the proceeds will be used to educate the public about the benefits to Oregon’s marine ecosystem of restoring sea otters as a keystone species. The Festival will also feature live music, local vendors, cashless bar, and a raffle for outstanding Door Prizes. We will be judging the beers based on a variety of categories, and awarding prizes at the end of the evening. Learn more about the participating breweries.

The Festival will take place indoors with limited capacity & Covid-19 safety protocols observed (outlined at the bottom of the page). The event will be for individuals 21+ only.

Ticket Sales Information:

  • Tickets for this event are sold out. If you already have secured your Festival tickets, you may still purchase additional drink tickets up until 3/11.
  • Drink Tickets for Festival Ticket Holders Only: $10 (for beer, wine, and cider)

What’s included in your ticket purchase?

  • Opportunity to taste all 13 otter-themed beers + 1 bonus tasting from Patagonia Portland
  • 1 customized MiiR stainless steel pint cup
  • Delicious assortment of appetizers all evening from Elephants Catering
  • 1 raffle ticket for amazing Door Prizes if you turn in your Beer Bingo Card after visiting all the breweries
  • Enjoy live musical performances from the Uncle Mary Band
  • Seltzer Waters/Sodas
  • Parking at OMSI

Breweries:

Vendors:

Sponsors:


Covid-19 Safety Protocols:

Starting on Saturday, March 12, OMSI will drop the mask requirement for guests.

  • OMSI will strongly encourage guests to continue to wear masks – signage will be created but ultimately it will be optional
  • OMSI will continue to monitor case counts in the state to determine if we need to require guests to wear masks again
  • OMSI will continue to require masks for OMSI staff and vendors

If you are feeling sick or are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, please stay home.

There are inherent risks involved when participating in in-person and public events, including risks associated with COVID-19. Participation in this event is voluntary and solely at a participant’s own risk, including risk of exposure, infection, and illness from COVID-19. Individuals should only participate to the extent that they are healthy and can comply with physical distancing and applicable federal, state, and local rules and restrictions.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Oregon Wild: Sea Otter Reintroduction Efforts on the Oregon Coast-Part 2 (2/2/22)

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Join the Elakha Alliance
as we present with Oregon Wild

The Elakha Alliance is pleased to be the guest presenter for the Oregon Wild as we take a deep dive into our sea otter Feasibility Study.

Introducing part 2 of Oregon Wild’s sea otter webinar series. If you love these charismatic animals then this is the webinar for you! Sea otters were once present along the Oregon coast for 10,000+ years before the fateful arrival of European fur traders and settlers. The absence of this species is still felt to this day, not only by tribes who had a connection to the species since time immemorial, but also by the entire coastal ecosystem that has since been thrown off balance. However, at long last there is hope for the return of this beloved, fuzzy mammal! 

On February 2nd, a guest from the Elakha Alliance will teach everyone about the sea otter Feasibility Study, the most important guiding document for reintroducing sea otters to the Oregon coast. You’ll get the chance to learn about topics varying from habitat suitability and ecosystem effects of sea otters, to political, legal, economic, and social considerations for successful reintroduction. Hope to see you then!

If you missed our first installment of the series you can view a recording here

Oregon Wild will be raffling off a copy of Oregon’s Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide, a solar USB charger, an Oregon Wild hat, or a “Wild: The Oregon Way” t-shirt! Tickets are $5 and are an optional purchase by clicking the link below. Raffle tickets not only help Oregon Wild continue these Wednesday presentations but also support our work safeguarding Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and waters. 

This webinar will take place on Wednesday February 2nd, 2022 at 6:00pm PDT. Register below.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: What Lies Beneath (1/20/22)

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Let’s Go On An Underwater Safari!

Laura Tesler

The Elakha Alliance has invited guest speaker, Laura Tesler, to take you on an underwater safari starting in British Columbia and traveling south along the coastline all the way down to California. See what lies beneath the beautiful Pacific ocean waves and why it is worth braving the rough conditions and 40 degree waters to dive the coastal waters of the Pacific. Learn a few fun facts along the way about marine reserves and BOFFFs!

This webinar will take place for free on Thursday January 20th, 2022 at 7:00pm PDT. Register below for the Zoom link.

Laura Tesler’s Biography

Laura Tesler

I grew up watching the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and old Sea Hunt episodes and always thought it would be great to learn how to dive. On my open water certification in 2005, I remember sitting at 50 feet in Nellie’s Cove outside Port Orford and watching rockfish and thinking I was stupid for not learning how to dive earlier. In any case, I eventually gained my Divemaster certification (December 2014) and I haven’t turned back. In 2006, I added a point and shoot camera and for the first 5 years took a lot of bad pictures… however I eventually got to the point where I made a large investment in my camera equipment as my diving skills improved and now, I take a lot of OK pictures (my opinion). I love to travel, and although 90% of my 300+ dives have been in cold water, I do treat myself with a warmwater trip to a foreign locale every now and then (although I usually annually dive Florida as my in-laws reside there). I also became a certified level 5 REEF surveyor so I am usually surveying whilst I am diving.

I live with my husband and son and they are certified non divers, however I have a lot of wonderful dive friends that I am always having fun and adventures with. I went to school to be a fisheries biologist with a focus on inland freshwater fisheries. I currently am gainfully employed (for almost 25 years) where I am the field coordinator for a mitigation program that purchases property for wildlife conservation in the Willamette valley. This is a fun job that takes me all over the valley and I am learning lots of new information about wildlife and the types of habitat they need to prosper in a rapidly urbanizing landscape.

I own all my own equipment- and I like it that way. I recently switched to a back plate from a jacket style BCD and it’s really better for me without a weight belt. I also like the trim better underwater. I wish I saw more women diving cold water. I think that statistic is changing over time. It would be great if we could encourage more women (and people in general) to dive our beautiful temperate waters. Some of the best diving I have ever done has been in Canada and it rivaled the best of the tropical diving in diversity and beauty. 

I enjoy being a “silent partner” in the OSC as I live in Salem and don’t come to meetings in Portland regularly… however I love how active the club is and I like the information exchange on the FB page. Look me up if you want to dive sometime!

Categories
Blog Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Elakha’s 2021 Year In Review

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Summarized by Bob Bailey,
Elakha Alliance Board President

2021 is in the books. It was such a good year for the Elakha Alliance and our work to bring sea otters home to Oregon! It proved the virtues of planning, patience, serendipity, and seizing opportunities when they come whizzing by. Here are a few milestones that will give you a sense of where we are in this journey.

Chief Don Ivy

The passing of Chief Don Ivy in July left a big hole in our hearts, the Elakha Alliance, the Coquille Indian Tribe, and his entire community of family and friends. Don was instrumental in reviving the vision of David Hatch by formally organizing the Elakha Alliance to actively work to restore sea otters to Oregon. He was a busy, committed man and the fact that he took the time to help build the Elakha Alliance indicates how important and meaningful our mission is.

To honor his work, we have commissioned a large myrtlewood bas-relief sculpture of a sea otter that we intend to present to the Coquille Tribal Council sometime in early 2022. You can also donate in honor of Don here.

Feasibility Study

Feasibility Study Poster, art by Lonny Hurley.

Nearly two years of anticipation and work came to fruition in August when we released our draft Feasibility Study for public review on our website. Written by an “A-Team” of scientists led by Dr. Tim Tinker, this document fulfills a goal we set for ourselves in our strategic planning process in 2019. This is a huge step toward our strategic objective of building a scientific basis for returning sea otters to Oregon.

The study concludes:
“Restoring a population of sea otters on the Oregon coast is feasible if steps are taken to account for ecological, habitat, logistic, economic, and social factors highlighted in this Feasibility Study. There appear to be no significant ecological, habitat, physiological, logistical, or regulatory barriers to restoring a population of sea otters in Oregon.”

Our study, funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has drawn attention in the world of sea otter conservation, too, because it appears that nobody has done this before. We were assisted by Andrew Johnson, Defenders of Wildlife, in preparing public-facing summaries of each chapter. These summaries and each of the entire chapters were posted on the Elakha Alliance website along with a form by which to provide comment. We received very few comments but one, pertaining to water quality on the coast, will be addressed in the final document due by the end of
January, 2022.

This study is important because it will provide the Elakha Alliance, state and federal agencies and the public with scientific information necessary to inform discussions – and decisions – about where, when, and how to return sea otters to Oregon.

Sea Otter Science Symposium

Our third symposium was held in the afternoons of October 5, 6, and 7, with an evening keynote presentation on October 5. These outstanding science presentations were recorded and are viewable on the Elakha Alliance YouTube channel (where there are now a total of 42 videos).

Chanel Hason (see below) did a great job of promoting the symposium on social media, working with the speakers to make sure they were comfortable with our format, and acting as host for each session. We had 12 speakers, 9 of whom gave presentations related to the science in our Feasibility Study; the three keynote speakers took an interdisciplinary and creative look at kelp on the West Coast.

Economic Impact Assessment

In early December we received a draft Economic Impact Assessment from our consultant, The Research Group, in Corvallis. This study, supported by a coalition of funders, proved to be more difficult than anticipated because a) there are no comparable situations and b) it sought to assess future hypothetical impacts from a return of sea otters rather than assess historical data of real events. The draft has been sent to “peer-reviewers” for comments. We hope to post the draft on our website by March for public review.

Building Public Support

People viewing the lone sea otter at Yaquina Head in Nov 2021. Photo by Roy W. Lowe.

Building public consensus around the idea of restoring sea otters to Oregon is a strategic objective for the Elakha Alliance. The Meyer Memorial Trust has provided core support for our public outreach work over the past two years. I think we made substantial progress toward that objective in 2021 both in terms of actually building public awareness and support as well as building the capacity to increase our results in 2022.

In March we said “goodbye” to John Goodell, who opted to return to the world of his beloved falcons, and welcomed Chanel Hason as our
Director of Outreach and Community Relations. Chanel hit the ground running and has done an outstanding job of ramping up our social media presence which, as it turns out, is a real “thing,” scheduling and coordinating webinars and other presentations, coordinating a variety of fundraising projects, and other outreach and engagement work.

During 2021 we hosted or participated in sixteen webinars or in-person presentations on topics related to kelp and sea otters. Among these was a “Crabinar” that focused on the life-history of Dungeness crab and studies from California and Alaska of the impact of sea otters on Dungeness crab fisheries.

Our social media presence really took off during 2021 as shown in this table:

Our mailing list for our newsletter, The Raft, also grew substantially during the year.

  • February 11, 2021: Subscribers 1,135
  • May 25, 2021: Subscribers 1,458 (+323)
  • September 16, 2021: Subscribers 1,687 (+229)
  • December 14, 2021: Subscribers 2,192 (+505)

Several amazing opportunities were presented to us that helped increase public awareness as well as raise significant income. One was with Jacobsen Salt Company, a company based in Portland with salt-works on Netarts Bay. The company created a special 10th anniversary salt tin featuring a sea otter and information about the Elakha Alliance. Proceeds from sale of those tins netted more than $10,000 for the Elakha Alliance!

A second opportunity was presented by Kristyn Plancarte, a sea otters and marine mammal specialist at the Vancouver BC Aquarium who also hosts an on-line social media channel that features game-playing and science about marine mammals. She hosted a 24-hour live-stream fundraiser for us (yes, she stayed up all night!!) and when the dust settled the next morning people from all over the world had donated more than $22,000 to the Elakha Alliance! It was a very fun event that exceeded all expectations for money raised.

A third opportunity that is still coming to fruition is our Oregon Otter Beer Challenge. Thirteen breweries from around the state have agreed to accept the challenge to brew an ale with Maris Otter Malt. Annie Pollard from 7 Devils Brewing in Coos Bay has been instrumental in assisting Chanel with organizing the Challenge.

Some breweries, such as 7 Devils, have already released their brew while others will be tapping their kegs in January and February. We hope to hold a grand tasting event at OMSI in Portland in March, Covid permitting. So, watch for a brewery near you to feature an Oregon Otter Beer brew!

Fundraising

Jacobsen Salt Co.’s 10th Anniversary Sea Otter Salt Slide Tins.

Our financial picture improved during 2021 thanks to support from an increasingly diverse set of funders. In addition to those mentioned above, major 2021 supporters of the Elakha Alliance included:

  • Meyer Memorial Trust
  • Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative “Containers for Change” program
  • glassybaby foundation
  • Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund
  • Collins Foundation
  • Oregon Ocean Conservation Fund
  • Oregon Zoo Foundation
  • Sarah A. Stewart Foundation
  • Roundhouse Foundation
  • Mark Greenfield/Jane Hartline Advised Fund
  • Siletz Community Charitable Trust
  • Coquille Tribal Community Fund
  • Spirit Mountain Community Fund

Just as important, giving by individual donors rose significantly as word of our effort spread. Individuals from, literally, around the world are investing in this effort to return sea otters to Oregon. Their gifts are not just tangible expressions of support for our mission, but in the aggregate provided more than 25% of our total funding.

South Coast Community Liaison

Overlooking Bandon Beach. Photo by Chanel Hason.

Publication of the Feasibility Study reinforced our hunch that the best sea otter habitat is from Cape Arago and Coos Bay southward to Brookings. And we have long believed that we need a more personal presence and stronger relationships with the people and communities along this Wild Rivers Coast. Now, thanks to a generous gift from the Roundhouse Foundation and a matching grant from the Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund, we are in the process of hiring a South Coast Community Liaison to work directly with people and organizations in that region.

After several months of recruiting for candidates, we are thrilled that Frank Burris, the long-time Oregon State University Extension Sea Grant agent for Curry County, will take on this task and put on his Elakha Alliance hat in April after he retires from OSU. Activating the liaison position demonstrates that we are serious about working within potentially affected communities to increase understanding, address concerns, and build grassroots support.

Videos

Photo of Peter Hatch, Elakha Board Secretary, on ‘set’ at Otter Rock. Photo by Shervin Hess.

The Oregon Zoo has become a valued partner. In late August the Zoo released a 7-minute video that focused on the cultural significance of the return of sea otters. This video features Peter Hatch, Elakha Alliance Board Secretary and member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.

In early December the Zoo released a second video focusing on the ecological and economic significance of sea otter return. This video features Dave Lacey, owner and operator of South Coast Tours LLC in Gold Beach and Dr. Aaron Galloway, professor at the University of Oregon Institute for Marine Biology (OIMB) in Charleston. The Zoo & Elakha production team led by Shervin Hess, went to Port Orford and rode with Captain Dave to Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve to dive and shoot underwater video of kelp and marine habitat. Dr. Galloway was interviewed at OIMB near the mouth of Coos Bay.

A Glimpse of the Future

Lone male sea otter off of Yaquina Head. Photo by Roy W. Lowe.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, a lone sea otter was spotted at Yaquina Head, just north of Newport. Despite the fact that this little guy succumbed to the effects of a shark bite in early December, it was a glimpse into what could be.

The little visitor was almost certainly a sub-adult male from population on Washington’s Olympic Coast. He was not the first lone animal to be seen off Oregon. In recent years others have been spotted and, in some cases, photographed along the coast, but this appearance at Yaquina Head was different: he chose a very public place to stay for a nearly two weeks which gave time for word of his presence to spread.

Because Yaquina Head, managed by the U. S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as an Outstanding Natural Area has a visitor center, docents and interpretive programs related to its
seabird colonies, intertidal areas, and migrating grey whales, there are many eyes observing the ocean around Yaquina Head year-round. Thus, it did not take long for the furry visitor to be spotted. Photos taken with telescopic lenses spread on social media, including posts by the Oregon Coastal Wildlife Refuges, headquartered in Newport. News quickly spread that there was a special visitor and the parking lot began to fill as people came to scan for the visitor.

The day that I visited (approximately Day Four), the excitement in the crowd was palpable even in the parking lot as people arrived, bundled up, and headed to the viewing area to join others peering through binoculars and spotting scopes, pointing out the little guy floating on the bobbing, rippling ocean’s surface, oblivious to the commotion he was causing. I was there for an hour and the crowd did not abate. In the parking lot license plates from Oregon were alongside plates from Washington, California, Idaho and Utah. This animal belonged to everyone!

Roy Lowe, our former board colleague, was there with his giant telephoto lens and keen eyes. We marveled at the excitement of the onlookers, young and old alike. He told me that a day before one man confided that he had been hoping since 1956 to see a sea otter in Oregon and had finally gotten his wish. That kind of passion and caring is invaluable. In the past, wildlife agencies were reluctant to advertise the presence of such a lone visitor, fearing the wrong kind of attention to the animal. But this positive reaction in such a public place may demonstrate that perhaps the best protection for these animals would be a very public presence with lots of people watching and, most important, caring.

Looking Ahead

Bob Bailey enjoying the beauty of Cape Blanco State Park. Photo by Chanel Hason.


We have a number of things planned for 2022, including discussions with federal and state agencies about next steps, bringing our South Coast Liaison up to speed, implementing a Tribal Youth Internship Program, and addressing some research needs identified in the Feasibility Study.

But the best part will be the unexpected, the serendipitous, the opportunities that will come our way. I cannot wait!

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Holiday Otter Wrap Up Party (12/16/21)

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Don’t Miss This Otterly Great End of the Year Party!

Join Bob Bailey (Elakha Board President) & Chanel Hason (Dir. of Outreach & Community Relations) for a night of light-hearted virtual holiday fun! We will be highlighting our accomplishments of 2021, while sharing our future endeavors for 2022. Feel free to sport your favorite ugly sweater, pour yourself a festive libation, and learn what our next big goals are for the future of sea otter relocation in Oregon. BONUS – don’t be surprised if we give away fun prizes throughout the evening!

This webinar will take place for free on Wednesday December 16th, at 6:00pm PDT. Register below for the Zoom link.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: Chasing Kelp: A bull kelp journey across the Pacific Coast (12/1/21)

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Learn the history of
Seaweeds & Kelp of the Pacific Coast

Credit: Josie Iselin

Josie Iselin will take us on her journey as an artist diving deep into the science of the seaweed and kelp of our Pacific West Coast. The images and chapters of her book the The Curious World of Seaweed will be a jumping off point into her current research and artwork concerning the history of kelp surveys and maps. Her newest project, entitled Chasing Kelp will be discussed as it is currently evolving. Comparing the underpinnings to storytelling concerning kelp in California versus Oregon, Puget Sound and Alaska are some of her current preoccupations, as visual artist and storyteller, she is delighted to bring for discussion with the Elakha Alliance community.

This webinar will take place for free on Wednesday December 1st, at 6:00pm PDT. Register below for the Zoom link.

About The Guest Presenter: Josie Iselin

Josie Iselin is the photographer, author and designer of many books exploring our coastal universe. Beach Stones was published in 2006, Beach: A Book of Treasure in 2010 and her visual primer on seaweed, An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed, was published in 2014. Iselin continues her explorations into the world of marine algae with her most recent book, The Curious World of Seaweed (Heyday Books, August 2019, winner Tiffany Award from Phycological Society of America and shortlisted for The Northern California Book Awards and The Alice Award), an ambitious combination of essays and historical as well as contemporary imagery. This book chronicles the natural history as well as the history of science of sixteen iconic seaweeds and kelps. Iselin uses her visual art practice—the act of looking closely—as the stimulus for her scientific research and storytelling. You can often find her on various coasts at low tide exploring tide pools and investigating the intertidal realm. 

Josie Iselin holds a BA in visual and environmental studies from Harvard and an MFA from San Francisco State University. For over twenty-five years she has used her flatbed scanner and computer for generating imagery. Iselin exhibits large-scale fine art prints at select galleries and museums, advocates for ocean health through education and speaks widely on the confluence of art and science. She teaches in the School of Design at San Francisco State University and is constantly exploring ways to bring design and art students closer to the ocean world as well as bring design concepts into the realm of ocean science. Seaweeds’ stories and beauty are a good way to make these connections! Josie always has new projects in the works at her studio, Loving Blind Productions, located underneath her house, on a steep hill in San Francisco. Her work is on view at www.josieiselin.com.

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Support Sea Otters for GivingTuesday

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#GivingTuesday is a great movement that was started in 2012 by smart and socially conscious people with the purpose of encouraging others to give back their time and donation dollars to worthy charities — all in the midst of the busy holiday shopping season.

The Elakha Alliance is launching a #GivingTuesday ‘Double your Donation‘ fundraiser for the next 6 days. If we collectively raise $3,000 in merchandise sales and/or direct donations from Nov 30th-Dec 5th, a private donor will match it for a grand total $6,000! With every purchase, the Elakha Alliance will be able to further our research and community outreach towards relocating sea otters back to the Oregon coast.

Will you help us reach our goal of selling 300 shirts?
We have a variety of color & sizing options!

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Nature Night: Restoring Sea Otters to the Oregon Coast: An Ecological and Cultural Imperative (11/9/21)

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Join the Elakha Alliance
with the Portland Audubon Society

The Elakha Alliance is pleased to be the guest presenter for the Portland Audubon’s Nature Night series. Join Bob Bailey, Board President, and Peter Hatch, Board Member, as they discuss the cultural and ecological importance of sea otter reintroduction in Oregon.

Florian Graner

Sea otters were once common along the Oregon coast, a protector of the rich biological productivity of ocean waters and a meaningful element in the culture of coastal Indian people.  Their dense, lush fur made them the target of commercial hunting and by the late 1800s, they were mostly gone from their former range from the Aleutian Islands to Baja California, including Oregon.

A few remnant colonies survived the fur trade hunting, providing the basis for today’s sea otter population in much of their former range.  However, sea otters remain absent in Oregon, an absence that has had unforeseen consequences for Oregon’s nearshore kelp forests.  The Elakha Alliance, an Oregon non-profit organization, seeks to return these essential keystone predators to their former homes and thereby restore the ecological productivity of the nearshore marine ecosystem and restore the ancient cultural connection between coastal Indian people and sea otters.  For an in-depth review of the historical, ecological, and cultural context for the Elakha Alliance and its work see this article in Open Spaces magazine.

This webinar will take place on Tuesday November 9th, at 7:00pm PDT. Register below

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: Birds & Kelp (10/21/21)

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Learn About The Interconnectedness
of Birds & the Oregon Coast

Kelp beds are biologically rich marine habitats supporting a diversity of invertebrates and fish.  Less well known is the use of these habitats by some species of birds.  Benefits to birds continue even after kelp becomes dislodged and washes ashore.  Local photographer Roy Lowe will discuss some of the species you might see using kelp beds in Oregon.

This webinar will take place for free on Thursday October 21st, at 6:30pm PDT. Register below for the Zoom link.

A pelagic cormorant in breeding plumage taken by Roy Lowe.

About The Guest Presenter: Roy Lowe

A resident of Waldport, Oregon, Roy Lowe is a photographer and former board member of the Elakha Alliance.  He was employed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 37 years and was the Project Leader for the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex upon his retirement in 2015.

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Watch The 2021 Sea Otter Science Symposium

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Thank you to the 100’s of individuals who joined us from around the globe for our 2nd virtual Sea Otter Science Symposium. This year’s focus was on the results from our Feasibility Study draft, discussing the key components when considering a sea otter reintroduction in Oregon.

We invite you to watch all of the individual presentations below from phenomenal scientists including: Dr. Tim Tinker, James Bodkin, Dr. Mike Murray, Dr. Lynn Lee, Dr. Salvador Jogensen, Sara Hamilton, Dr. Alan Shanks, Dr. Shawn Larson, Dr. Jan Hodder, and more! If you’d like to watch more educational videos from our previous events, visit our Youtube Channel.

Day 1: Sea Otter Science Symposium

Introduction + Tim Tinker: Oregon Feasibility Study Takeaways
James Bodkin: Lessons From Other Translocations; Prospects for Oregon
Michele Zwartjes: Regulatory & Legal Framework for Restoration
Mike Murray: Health & Animal Welfare Considerations in Translocations

Keynote Presentation:

Keynote: The Magic & Majesty of Kelp Forests w/ Kyle Cavanaugh, Patrick Webster & Emma Akmakdjian

Day 2: Sea Otter Science Symposium

Lynn Lee: Ecosystem Effects of Renewed Sea Otter Presence
Salvador Jorgensen: Great White Sharks & Sea Otter Restoration
Sara Hamilton: Oregon’s Kelp Forests – Status & Trends
Alan Shanks: Dungeness Crab Life History & Sea Otter Return

Day 3: Sea Otter Science Symposium

Shawn Larson: Genetic Aspects & Benefits of Sea Otter Translocations
Jan Hodder: Habitat Suitability on the Oregon Coast for Sea Otters
Tim Tinker: Oregon Sea Otter Population Model & Recovery Scenarios
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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

2021 Sea Otter Science Symposium (Oct 5-7)

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Join us for all things sea otters, science & fun!

From Tuesday October 5-7, 2021, the Elakha Alliance will host our second ever Virtual Sea Otter Science Symposium.

This year, our focus will strongly revolve around the key findings of our scientific Feasibility Study Draft on sea otter relocations to Oregon. We have an exceptional group of speakers this year, and we hope you tune in from where ever you are in the world, to learn from these intriguing presentations.

Review the agenda for the Symposium below, listed in Pacific Time:

Tuesday October 5

Wednesday October 6

Thursday October 7

  • 1:30pm: Dr. Shawn Larson: Genetic considerations for translocation; conservation benefits
  • 2:00pm: Dr. Jan Hodder: Habitat suitability on Oregon coast
  • 2:30pm: Dr. Tim Tinker: ORSO – Oregon Sea Otter population model and recovery scenarios
  • 3:30pm: Q & A:   All presenters
  • 4:00pm: Adjourn

We are asking participants to provide a $10 registration fee, but scholarships are available for students and others for whom $10 would be a barrier by emailing Chanel Hason, chanel@elakhaalliance.org.

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Renee Davis & Katie Russell Join the Elakha Alliance Board

In September, the Elakha Alliance was pleased to welcome two new Board Members. Both Renee Davis and Katie Russell have a wealth of individual knowledge and experience in the marine conservation field. Please join us in giving them a warm welcome!

Renee Davis.

Renee Davis has worked on conservation issues in Oregon for nearly 25 years. Her career experience includes marine conservation science and policy issues, change impacts on natural systems, and ecosystem services. Until recently, Renee served as deputy director with the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. She recently transitioned her focus to post-wildfire recovery and Klamath Basin issues. During her free time, Renee enjoys hiking, birding, paddling, and being immersed in Oregon’s wild places.

Katie Russell.

Katie Russell is a graduate student pursing her Masters of Environmental Studies, with a focus on education and nonprofit management, at the University of Oregon. After graduating with her Bachelor’s in Natural Science from Loyola Marymount University in 2012, she has been working in the field of animal care and training in Hawaii. She is passionate about conservation and climate change education and currently serves as the board secretary for The National Network of Ocean and Climate Change Interpreters.

(Header Photo: Morgan Rector)

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Sea Otter Awareness Week Presentation (9/24/21)

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Learn About the Cultural Importance
of Sea Otters in the Pacific Northwest

It is hard to appreciate the historical, cultural, and ecological significance of a species that disappeared from Oregon’s coastal waters over a century ago. What has the loss of sea otters meant to Oregon’s indigenous peoples? What does their absence mean to the health of nearshore ecosystems? What might be gained from the return of sea otters to Oregon?

Hosted by the Defenders of Wildlife in partnership with Sea Otter Savvy’s ‘We Were Here’ program, Peter Hatch (Elakha Alliance Board Secretary & member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz) will discuss the history and possible future of sea otters in Oregon.

We invite you to take this stakeholder survey about possible sea otter reintroduction along the West Coast.

This webinar will occur on Friday September 24th at 5pm PDT.


About Sea Otter Awareness Week

Annually, throughout the last week of September, Defenders of Wildlife, Sea Otter Savvy, and CA State Parks come together to celebrate sea otters during Sea Otter Awareness Week. They encourage zoological and educational institutions, governmental agencies and communities to plan and undertake events that highlight sea otters. These activities include sharing stories, disseminating science and generating media that inspire a deeper awareness of these unique marine mammals, their ecological importance and the many challenges they face. View all of the wonderful presentations and events here.

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Jacobsen Salt Co. Honors Sea Otters for 10 Yr Anniversary

To honor the Oregon waters that Jacobsen Salt Co. has hand-harvested sea salt for a decade, they partnered with the Elakha Alliance to help raise awareness and funds for our mission to restore Oregon’s population of sea otters and strengthen our local marine ecosystem.

For every specialty Sea Otter Slide Tin sold, Jacobsen will be donating all profits to support the Elakha Alliance. We are extremely honored and thrilled to be a part of their 10 year anniversary celebration, and we encourage you to order these limited edition Sea Otter Slide Tins (they make great gifts)!

Founded in 2011, Jacobsen Salt Co. is the first company to harvest salt in the Pacific Northwest since the 1800s. Since then it has transformed from a local, small business to a nationally recognized brand as America’s leading salt maker. Harvested from the cold, pristine waters of Netarts Bay on the Oregon Coast, their flake and kosher sea salts have garnered worldwide favor for their beautiful presentation and pure taste by professional chefs and home cooks alike.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: Pacific NW River Otter: Habitat, Ecology, and Health (7/26/21)

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Everything You Wanted To Know About River Otters

Photo: Heide Island

Most often than not, people mistake thinking they’ve witnessed a ‘sea otter’ on the Oregon coast, when in fact it’s actually a North American river otter. This is why we found it very important to invite Dr. Heide Island to speak about these unique creatures that she’s spent multiple years researching in the PNW. She will touch upon how rescued, captive river otters are informing the ecological and physiological wellness of native otter populations in the Pacific Northwest.

This webinar will take place for free on Monday July 26th, at 6:00pm PDT. Register below for the Zoom link.

Heide D Island received her doctorate in Experimental Psychology with specializations in Comparative Animal Behavior and Behavioral Neuroscience at The University of Montana in 2003. Island came to academics after working in the Alaskan commercial fishing industry alongside her father and as a research naturalist for Pacific Whale Foundation in Hawai’i. Given a background in marine science, ethology, and behavioral neuroscience, she has cultivated broad research interests which include: 1.) Behavioral ecology, especially related to optimal foraging and choice theory; 2.) Animal welfare, principally as it pertains to animal rehabilitation, conservation, and captivity wellness; and 3.) Comparative psychology of anxiety, depression, and boredom as its expressed among human and nonhuman animals.

Photo: Charles Biles

Dr. Island is a Professor of Comparative Animal Behavior and Neuroscience at Pacific University in Oregon and a Senior Research Associate for the Oregon Zoo. She is the Principal
Investigator in a 4-year longitudinal study of Whidbey Island’s North American river otters. Her interests concern the welfare of captive and wild otter populations found in the Pacific Northwest (North American River Otter and Sea Otters). Among rescued and captive populations, Dr. Island is interested in the development of social learning, outlets for natural foraging, and psychological welfare. Among wild otters, her work focuses specifically on Island County marine-foraging river otters, their distribution, diet, foraging patch variability between fresh (e.g., Lake Pondilla, Admirals Lake, Lake Crockett, etc.) and saltwater (e.g., Admiralty Bay, Bush Point, Bell’s Beach, etc.), photoidentification of individual animals, and their genetic pedigrees, as well as their load of persistent organopollutants, collected through non-invasive and salvage sampling. The latter is particularly relevant for understanding the health of the local ecology.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: Art + Science + Kelp Forests (7/20/21)

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Using Creative Storytelling To Showcase Kelp Forests

Three researchers from interdisciplinary fields of geography, photography, and design advocate for the prosperity of Pacific kelp forests in a webinar hosted by the Elakha Alliance. Kyle Cavanaugh, Patrick Webster, and Emma Akmakdjian discuss the role of perspective in creating stories that spotlight the kelp forests’ return to ecosystem balance, especially with the reintroduction of sea otters.

Kyle Cavanaugh is an Assistant Professor of Geography at UCLA who helped lead the project Floating Forests that uses NASA satellite imagery and UAV technology to map the density and dispersal of kelp forests worldwide. He studies the drivers and consequences of changes in coastal foundation species such as giant kelp forests and mangroves. He is especially interested in what controls large-scale changes in the distribution and abundance of these species. Much of his research utilizes remote sensing (e.g. satellite, aerial, and UAV imagery) to document ecological change over large space and time scales. Visit Kelpwatch to learn more about his most recent kelp research with The Nature Conservancy, UCLA, and UCSB.

Patrick Webster is an underwater photographer based in Monterey, California, capturing imagery of the central coast kelp forests and their inhabitants. He is the social media content creator for the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Emma Akmakdjian is a graduate student and artist at the Design Media Arts Department at UCLA, working to communicate the importance of kelp forests in human and non-human cultures.

This webinar will take place for free on Tuesday July 20th, at 6:00pm PDT. Register below for the Zoom link.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Crabinar: Will Sea Otters Take a Bite Out of Dungeness? (7/8/21)

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Let’s Talk Crab

Photo: Oregon Coast Aquarium

Dungeness crab are an iconic marine shellfish of great economic and cultural importance to Oregon’s coastal communities and way of life.  The Elakha Alliance is keenly interested in avoiding or minimizing potential conflicts with Dungeness crab harvest when sea otters are returned to their former homes on the Oregon coast.  This “Crabinar” will explore what we know about the effect of sea otters on commercial Dungeness crab harvest elsewhere, the potential for conflicts in Oregon and possible actions that can help to reduce  or avoid conflicts.  The Crabinar will feature a state-of-the art population model used to predict the location and numbers of sea otters in Oregon in the years following restoration. 

This webinar will take place for free on Thursday July 8th, at 7:00pm PDT. Register below for the Zoom link.

Guest Speakers

  • Dr. Alan Shanks, University of Oregon Institute for Marine Biology: life-history and population dynamics of Dungeness crab in Oregon.
  • Tracy Grimes, M.S., San Diego State University: effect of sea otters in California on Dungeness crab catches and effect on young crab in estuaries.
  • Dr. Ginny Eckert, Director, Alaska Sea Grant Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks: effects of an expanding population of sea otters in SE Alaska on Dungeness crab and other shellfisheries.
  • Dr. Tim Tinker, University of California Santa Cruz and lead author of a feasibility study of restoring sea otters to Oregon: considerations of Dungeness crab in the Oregon Feasibility Study, Oregon Sea Otter Population Model and four “what-if” scenarios for possible sea otter populations in 30 years.
  • Shannon Davis, Principal with The Resources Group Economist: potential impacts of sea otters on Oregon Dungeness crab harvest as forecast by four “what-if” scenarios for future sea otter populations.
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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: Dive into a Changing Ecosystem: Kelp Forests & Urchin Barrens (6/24/21)

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What Can We Learn From California’s Ever-Changing Kelp Forest Ecosystem?

Photo: Kate Vylet, Monterey Bay

We are excited to invite Kate Vylet, underwater photographer, scientific diver, and divemaster anchored in Monterey Bay, California, and Josh Smith, Ph.D. Candidate and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California Santa Cruz to speak at our upcoming webinar.

Tucked along California’s coast is a vibrant underwater forest of towering kelp and diverse wildlife. In the last six years, unprecedented outbreaks of purple sea urchins have decimated kelp forests within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, lending several questions: What caused the urchin outbreak? How have sea otters responded? Will intervention and urchin culling enhance kelp recovery? Through underwater photography and observations by Kate Vylet, and a scientific discussion by Josh Smith, this talk will outline how science, art, and community observation intersect to inform the path forward.

This topic correlates directly with the Elakha Alliance’s efforts to reintroduce sea otters on the Oregon coast, where we are also experiencing similar ecological shifts with urchin barrens.

This webinar will take place for free on Thursday June 24th, at 6:30pm PST. Register at the bottom of the page for the Zoom link.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: The Art of Science and Envisioning Information w/ Skye Morét (6/10/21)

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Understanding Research Through Unique Visualizations

Liina Klauss, Moritz Stefaner, Skye Moret, Perpetual Plastic KŸnstlerin, Artist , Trash , Trash Walk ©Massine

How does one channel a life of marine science and adventure into a career that can help redesign and visualize the stark human-planetary dissonance we see around us today? Skye’s talk will discuss the role of design and data visualization in portraying complex ecosystems, facilitating conversation and participation, in place-making, and as a means of visual storytelling. For those considering a dip into scientific data visualization or communication, or those just interested in beautiful and provocative imagery, Skye will share some tips and tricks and discuss her trajectory from a marine scientist and sailor to her work as an information designer and educator today.

Skye Morét is a data-driven designer and marine scientist. Her diverse background on the ocean—having sailed 100,000+ nautical miles around the globe—fuels her abiding interest in the power of art and design to engage citizens with the ecological complexity and dependencies of our planet. Skye leads client-based data visualization projects with contexts ranging from habitat-specific climate change to workplace cancer risk. Her work has been exhibited at Science Gallery Dublin, the European Parliament Building in Brussels, the shores of Bali, and at an Antarctic research station, among other venues. Her latest data-driven work won a National Geographic global innovation challenge first prize. Skye has authored multidisciplinary publications in ScienceSlateMigrant JournalPopular ScienceRoads & Kingdoms, Public Radio International, and essays in two forthcoming books. Skye is an Assistant Professor in the Collaborative Design & Design Systems graduate program at the Pacific Northwest College of Art and consults for the United Nations Environment Program.

This webinar will take place for free on Thursday June 10th, at 6:30pm PST. Register at the bottom of the page for the Zoom link.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

First Tuesday Talk – The Return of Sea Otters: Considering the Cultural Dimensions of Restoration (6/1/21)

This event is hosted by the Coos History Museum on June 1st, 2021 at 6:30pm PST on Zoom. Click here to register for this free event.

“It is hard to appreciate the historical, cultural, and ecological significance of a species that disappeared from Oregon’s coastal waters over a century ago. What has the loss of sea otters meant to Oregon’s indigenous peoples? What does their absence mean to the health of nearshore ecosystems? What might be gained from the return of sea otters to Oregon? Peter Hatch from the Elakha Alliance and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz will discuss the history and possible future of sea otters in Oregon.”

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: History of Abalone w/ Ann Vileisis (5/25/21)

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Abalone, the remarkable history and uncertain future of California’s iconic shellfish

Prized for their iridescent shells and delectable meat, abalone have a long and rich cultural history on the West Coast and also an ecological history with sea otters; but with increasing stresses to marine ecosystems today, these unique mollusks now face enormous challenges. Join award-winning author Ann Vileisis for a deep dive into the environmental history of abalone, based on her new book Abalone: the remarkable history and uncertain future of California’s iconic shellfish, including updates on exciting current endangered species recovery efforts. This webinar will take place for free on Tuesday May 25th, at 6:30pm PST. Register at the bottom of the page for the Zoom link.

Ann’s latest book Abalone explores the intimate connections between food and nature on California’s coast. “Through my research on wetlands and food history, I already knew that shellfish had played a significant role in culture, cuisine, and ecology in the past,” she said. “When I found a stunning abalone shell on a Big Sur beach, it led me to discover a rich and remarkable history that spans more than 13,000 years. I unearthed colorful, joyful, and painful stories that speak directly to hard questions we face in this age of extinctions — how we can let animals we cherish become so imperiled? And how can we bring them back?”

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Sea Otters & The Lewis and Clark Expedition

Elakha Board Member, Cameron La Follete, and Dr. Doug Deur, a cultural historian who is on our Advisory Committee, co-authored an article for We Proceeded On (WPO), the journal of the Lewis and Clark Heritage Trail Foundation, about Oregon sea otters and the Lewis and Clark expedition. 

The intent in doing this article was to capture the interest of an important regional historical group for sea otter restoration in Oregon, and focus WPO’s readership on our region rather than (as is frequently the case) the Great Plains and the Midwest generally. Interestingly, the L&C Journals have more than thirty references to Expedition members trading with Clatsop and Chinook peoples for sea otter pelts, so the sea otter saga is hardly a minor part of the 1805-6 winter they spent at Fort Clatsop. 

To read & download a pdf scan of this fascinating historic article, click here.

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Coast Range Radio Podcast with Bob Bailey

Our Elakha Board President, Bob Bailey, was recently interviewed by Andrew Collins-Anderson on Coast Range Radio. Bob and Andrew discussed sea otter ecology, why sea otters are absent from the Oregon Coast, the process for reintroduction and how individuals can get involved. Take a listen!

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: Underwater Photography in the Kelp Forest w/ Brent Durand (5/13/21)

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Dive into the Underwater World with Brent Durand

Brent Durand is an avid scuba diver, surfer, writer, photographer and marketer living in Northern California. He has been scuba diving for nearly 25 years and shooting underwater photos for 10 years. The Elakha Alliance is thrilled to invite Brent to present on underwater photography best practices and to share his firsthand experiences diving within various kelp forest ecosystems.
 
Brent’s work is published in print worldwide, in advertising, and across the web. And while he has hosted photo workshops in many exotic locations around the globe, the vast majority of his diving is in the kelp forests at home. Brent has spent years documenting the kelp forest ecosystem, its inhabitants, and dive adventures from the shore, kayaks and even stand up paddle boards. Learn more and view his photos at BrentDurand.com

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Celebrate Sea Otter Moms this Mother’s Day

Sea otter moms are heroes, raising their pups on their own without the help of males or other females. 

Immediately after giving birth, a sea otter spends hours fluffing and licking her pup to ensure the pup’s fur coat retains air, since sea otters do not have any layer of blubber or fat.  And then in the months that follow, the mother must voraciously feed, so that she can nurse her pup for anywhere from four to twelve months, all while teaching the pup to survive and eventually thrive.

Someone once described starting an organization, as we have with Elakha, as like giving birth and raising a child.  We’re pretty excited at what our “pup” is doing so far!  

  • We’ve launched a scientific Feasibility Study and accompanying Economic Assessment to inform decision-making about the potential for sea otter restoration in Oregon. 
  • We’ve launched an online public education campaign, including webinars, podcasts, social media, and a new website. 
  • We’re building partnerships with other organizations small and large in order to build regional consensus that sea otter restoration is a goal worth pursuing.

But there is so much more that needs to be done, and that’s where you come in.  We need you to help “feed” Elakha with the resource most needed at the moment: your donations. Your donations of $25, $50, $100, or whatever you can afford are essential if we’re to increase our impact in the months ahead.

For starters, we’re gearing up for a big public engagement strategy this summer around the public release of the draft Feasibility Study and Economic Assessment.  

We’re also planning for a new round of outreach aimed at specific interested audiences, such as Tribes, ocean users, and those who catch shellfish or finfish as their livelihood.

All while setting the stage for 2022, when we’ll have to take the next steps on scientific assessment, and be prepared to launch a full-scale in-person public outreach program that dovetails with our online public education. 

We’ve set a target of raising $30,000 from individuals by the mid-point of the year in order to be able to move forward with our complete plan.  As I write this, we have raised $19,485 of that

In honor of sea otter mothers, your own mother, or whoever in your life nurtured you when it was most needed, please consider donating. 

Thank you so much & have a wonderful Mother’s Day.

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Aquarium Grant Opens Doors for Marine Rehabilitation Center

Congratulations are in order to the Oregon Coast Aquarium who was the recipient of a $5 million dollar grant from the Roundhouse Foundation.

The Roundhouse Foundation is located in Sisters, Oregon, and supports solutions to the challenges associated with rural culture and landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. Their primary areas of focus include arts and culture, environmental stewardship, and social services and education. The Roundhouse Foundation values opportunities that work at the intersections of these areas.

Courtesy of the Oregon Coast Aquarium

The majority of this significant grant (~$4 million) will be dedicated to the creation of a brand new Marine Rehabilitation Center. We spoke to Jim Burke, the Director of Animal Husbandry for the Oregon Coast Aquarium, regarding this exciting new development. Burke also sits on the Elakha Alliance’s Science and Technological Committee.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is the only location in the state of Oregon, authorized to provide critical care to endangered marine wildlife like sea turtles, northern fur seals, and snowy plovers. Although the aquarium has helped rehabilitate sea birds (200-300/year) and stranded marine mammals in the past, this new facility would play a crucial role in assisting a significantly larger variety and overall number of animals. Burke stated that this new facility would include a warm water section for sea turtles, a bird rehab area, and the largest competent will be dedicated to the rehabilitation of marine mammals.

If/when sea otter reintroduction does occur in Oregon, the Oregon Coast Aquarium would play a crucial role, specifically as the only local state facility to admit an injured or sick sea otter for rehabilitation/release. The last time the Oregon Coast Aquarium received a wild beached sea otter was 12 years ago, and unfortunately due to health complications, it did not survive. Although the estimated completion of the new rehabilitation center won’t be for another 2 years, Burke and his team at the aquarium are looking forward to helping the Elakha Alliance’s reintroduction efforts in a variety of other ways. This includes research, relocation scouting, permitting, and lending boats/divers for various tasks.

Overall, we at the Elakha Alliance look forward to further collaboration with the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Stay tuned for further developments!

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: The Return of Oregon’s Sea Otters – Considering the Cultural Dimensions of Restoration (4/20/21)

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Culture & Sea Otters in Oregon

It is hard to appreciate the cultural importance of a species that disappeared from Oregon’s coastal waters over a century ago. What has the loss of sea otters meant to Oregon’s indigenous peoples? Join Peter Hatch, Elakha Board Member, and member of the Confederate Tribe of Siletz Indians, as he discusses the cultural dimensions of Oregon’s lost sea otters, and the hope for their return. The webinar will be held on April 20th at 6:30pm PST. Register below to join.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: A Case for Sea Otter Restoration in Oregon (4/8/21 )

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Restoration Of Sea Otters In Oregon

Emerging science reveals that Oregon’s kelp ecosystem is undergoing dramatic shifts such as large increases in purple sea urchin barrens following the collapse of sunflower sea stars. The restoration of sea otters may help stabilize this vulnerable system, yet some Oregonian’s are concerned about possible negative effects to commercial shellfisheries. The prospect of restoring sea otters to the Oregon coast raises important ecological, cultural, and economic considerations and trade-offs. Join John Goodell, Elakha’s Director of Science and Policy, as he discusses what the Elakha Alliance is doing to address these questions and our plan going forward. The webinar will be held on April 8th at 6:30pm PST. Register below to join.

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Preserving Kelp Oases: Elakha Partnering on a North Coast Project

Even with a successful translocation of sea otters in Oregon, sea otter population growth and dispersal takes time. If an initial reintroduction occurs on the south coast where most of the best habitat occurs, it may take many decades for a viable sub-population of sea otters to become established further north. There is a chance that trends in kelp declines and spreading urchin barrens will not continue, but what if they do?

In 2020, the Oregon Kelp Alliance (ORKA) launched a pilot project using scientific divers to experimentally remove purple sea urchins to protect specific “kelp oases”. To incentivize long-term removals, ORKA is working with partners to develop a new market for purple sea urchin “uni”. The Elakha Alliance is partnering with ORKA and with David and Talya Semrad from the Oregon Freediving Company to help coordinate a possible second location here on the north coast!  We are submitting a permit application for sea urchin harvest to ODFW soon, and hoping to be in the water this season! We think this effort will not only provide valuable insights into urchin management, but help engage the more divers and freedivers in kelp conservation. More to come soon.

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Sea Otters and Purple Sea Urchins in California: A Nuanced Story

2014 was the start of an ecological upheaval on the California and Oregon coasts. It started with the collapse of the sunflower sea star due to sea star wasting disease and by the summer, a large “blob” of warm water stretched from Alaska to Baja.  In Monterey Bay, researchers documented a large decline in kelp and corresponding spread of purple sea urchin barrens – even in areas with sea otters. To the surprise of many marine biologists, it appeared at first glancethat sea otters were not controlling purple sea urchins  a result that diverged from the previous 40 years of sea otter science.

Photo: Kate Vylet, Monterey Bay

It makes sense that sea otter don’t eat empty sea urchins (urchins found in” urchins barrens” often contain no uni since they have eaten most of the kelp and run out of food). A recent paper by Josh Smith shows that sea otters responded to the dramatic increase in urchins by consuming over 3 times as many urchins than before 2015. Otters indirectly maintained remnants of kelp forests amid widespread sea urchin outbreaks by preferentially targeting energetically profitable (gonad rich) sea urchins in or near kelp forests. These forest patches maintained by sea otters are the spore sources to ultimately replenish the barren grounds. Learn more…