Blog Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Help Us Welcome Our First Executive Director, Jane Bacchieri

On June 13, Jane Bacchieri was unanimously and enthusiastically selected by the Elakha Alliance Board of Directors to lead the Elakha Alliance!! Her broad, deep background in organizational management and natural resource issues in Oregon are what we need. She will begin her leadership on July 5th. We’re looking forward to working with her to bring her up to speed and help her take the reins of this great organization.

Jane spent the past decade leading the Watershed Services and Integrated Planning groups at the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services, where she got rave reviews from supervisors and staff alike. Prior to that, she had a productive stop with the National Policy Consensus Center at Portland State University focusing on the Lower Columbia River Solutions Group. From 2006 to 2010 she was a natural resources policy advisor to Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski working on watershed and water quality issues and implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). She also has experience with coastal, river, and watershed management issues for the Oregon Coastal Management Program, South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, and the National Park Service in Alaska. She currently serves as secretary/treasurer of the board of directors of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership. In her “youth,” she spent two years with the U.S. Peace Corps in the Kingdom of Tonga as an environmental advisor.

Jane holds a Master of Environmental Management degree from Duke University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from the University of Vermont. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast, including having built her own kayak, and is a dedicated marathon runner (is there any other kind?) We are super pleased to welcome her to the world of the Elakha Alliance! You can reach her at

Blog Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Jason Younker, Chief of the Coquille Indian Tribe, Joins Elakha Board

Since the passing of Chief Don Ivy last summer, the Elakha Alliance Board of Directors has been without a member of the Coquille Indian Tribe.  We are very pleased to announce that Jason Younker, now Chief of the Coquille Indian Tribe, has agreed to serve on the Elakha board.  He grew up on South Slough and Charleston on Coos Bay and wishes to extend and honor the legacy of his uncle, Chief Don Ivy.  Jason is a very busy man; he is Assistant Vice President and Advisor to the President on Sovereignty and Government-to-Government Relations at the University of Oregon.  He received his PhD in Anthropology from the UO in 2004 and spent a decade teaching at Rochester Institute of Technology before returning to Oregon.  He is the Past-President of the Association of Indigenous Anthropologists.  

Blog Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Congratulations to Elakha’s Tribal Youth Summer Internship Recipients

The Elakha Alliance received funding from the Siletz Tribal Community Foundation and the Spirit Mountain Community Fund to support two summer internships for tribal youth in the state of Oregon. 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.

The two tribal students will use the 10-week summer internship to create a traveling cultural display, highlighting the cultural significance of Oregon’s sea otters. The display is intended to educate the public and travel up and down the coastline to various cultural centers, museums, and marine science centers in Fall 2022.

Kaitlynn Spino, University of Oregon

Hello! My name is Kaitlynn Spino, and I am a descendant of the Yakama Nation. I am from Klickitat, WA, which is nestled in the Columbia River Gorge. I am a third-year student at the University of Oregon. I am currently majoring in Marine Biology and Native American Studies. Being an Elakha Alliance Tribal Youth Intern is a phenomenal opportunity. Being able to combine marine science, law & policy, and tribal perspective into an organization is exactly what I want to do once I graduate from college. I hope to work for different tribal governments regarding fisheries, with a focus on salmon specifically. Being able to partake in the work of the reintroducing of sea otters or Elakha along the Oregon Coast is incredible to think about. To make sure my future kids and grandkids can see and exist together with sea otters along the Oregon coastline pushed me to get involved in this internship.

Greyson Gomez, University of Oregon

I am Greyson Gomez, A Native student from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw. I am going into my senior year at the University of Oregon with a major in Product Design and a minor in Sports Business. The Elakha Alliance team is something I am so grateful to be a part of this Summer. The Elakha Alliance is important to me because of the founding vision of our people thriving alongside the keystone species of the sea otter years from now. I am thankful to be given the opportunity to use my creative toolbox to showcase and emphasize just how important Elakha are to the Oregon coast!

Blog Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Elakha Presents for Women High School Students in Science & Engineering

Written by Elakha Alliance Board Member: Katie Russell

On Thursday, May 26th, I was able to join the young scientists of Eugene’s 4J high schools at the 10th annual Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Symposium at Churchill High School. At this symposium, 8th-12th graders in Lane County joined local scientists and conservation groups to learn about this year’s theme—Pacific Northwest Climate Change: From our Forests to our Oceans.

Rather than just telling the students what the Elakha Alliance and other marine mammal conservation groups do, I helped them design their own observational studies. We began the workshop by discussing the goals of the Elakha Alliance and the importance of kelp forest ecosystems as a natural climate solution. Next, we had a broad conversation about the information we needed to gather to ensure we were setting future sea otters up for success. Finally, we focused on understanding the energetic needs of sea otters and their natural behaviors.

For our experiment, we designed and conducted ethograms. An ethogram is a catalog or table of different animal behaviors observed in a set period. Ethograms can be used to study animals in the wild or human care and help track things like the prevalence of certain behaviors, social interactions, behavior changes in response to new conditions, and establish a baseline to approximate energy expenditure. To complete a successful ethogram, the students used one of the most important skills all scientists practice—careful and close observation.

In a few years, these young scientists will hopefully be able to conduct ethograms on wild sea otter populations, but for this workshop, we studied otters using the exhibit live streams from the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Georgia Aquarium. First, students chose six behaviors they were going to be tracking. Then they formed hypotheses about which behaviors they thought would occur most frequently—some predicted that otters would be mostly resting because we were observing them later at night. Some thought they would see grooming the most after learning how otters need to work hard to maintain their fur to stay warm. Once they formed their hypothesis, we got to work making close observations!

Example of the students’ ethogram data collection from observing sea otter live cameras.

We set our experiment duration for 5 minutes, with students recording behaviors every 20 seconds. I helped as a timekeeper so they could focus on their study, letting them know to make a tally next to the behavior occurring exactly at that 20-second mark. After collecting all their data, students analyzed it to see which behavior occurred most frequently. It was great to hear students comparing their results and discussing the differences between what they observed across the three aquariums. The most observed behaviors were grooming, swimming, and resting across all observations. My favorite observation of the night was, “I knew otters were cute, but I didn’t know they were THIS cute!”


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.

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.

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 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

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 (

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.

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!


4th Quarter 2021 Donation Dedications

The Elakha Alliance would like to thank the following who made honorary, tributary, or memorial donations during the 4th Quarter of 2021.

Ryan BlumIn Honor of Kate Laubach and Will McClain
Tomas ChandlerIn Memory of Millie Dangler
Erika CherneckiIn Memory of my Nana
Ann ClarkIn Honor of Pearl, Cove, and Aurora
John DennisIn Honor of Ruth Alcorn Dennis
Jamie FeredayIn Memory of Don Ivy
Robert and Susan FichnerIn Memory of Dave Hatch
Kenneth GriffinIn Honor of Ana Otter Madrid
Lana HaynesIn Memory of Heather Haynes Sheehan
Alexander Hays-EkelandIn Tribute to Alex
Annie HeronIn Memory of Justine Cooper
Eileen HoustonIn Honor of Chanel Hason
Mike KelleyIn Honor of Simon the Sea Otter
Robert KloosIn Memory of Dave Hatch
Valerie KreiserIn Honor of Sharon Kreiser
Rhett LawrenceIn Honor of Avalyn Taylor
Deb MerchantIn Honor of Scott Stevens
Patti MurphyIn Honor of Larry A. Murphy
Beverly RatajakIn Honor of Cameron LaFollette
Paul RivenburghIn Honor of Quinn Rivenburgh
Elizabeth RuggieroIn Honor of Renee Elizabeth Davis
Jane RussellIn Honor of Katie Russell
Katelyn TabbIn Honor of Dan Henery
Kimberly WilburIn Honor of Josie Iselin
Megan Young WieseIn Honor of Thomas Doherty and his daughter Eva, who love sea otters

Blog Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Elakha’s 2021 Year In Review

Blue Banner

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!


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.


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!


2nd and 3rd Quarter 2021 Donation Dedications

The Elakha Alliance would like to thank the following who made honorary, tributary, or memorial donations during the 2nd and 3rd Quarters of 2021.

Paulianne Balch-RancourtIn memory of my mom, Dot Balch, who introduced me to sea otters.
Wendy BoydIn honor of Hilaire Bojonel, who volunteers at the Oregon Aquarium and loves, loves, loves sea otters
Leslie ConnellIn honor of Norman W. Connell
Jan HartIn honor of my sister Jyl
Katherine HillIn honor of my father, Robert Hill, who loved otters!
Jan HodderIn honor of Chief Don Ivy and in honor of Dave Hatch
Joanne KittelIn honor of Dave Hatch
Judy KloosIn memory of Dave Hatch
Trish MaceIn honor of Jane Mace
Tess MalijenovskyIn honor of Andy Sullivan, Irisol Gonzalez, Chloe Malijenovsky, Abby Jay, Cameron Brown, and Paul Elias.
Bruce MarcotIn honor of John Goodell
Kristen PhilbrookIn tribute of Hilaire Bojonell- diver and sea otter lover
Kieran SikdarIn honor of Audra, my sweet otter partner


1st Quarter 2021 Donation Dedications

The Elakha Alliance would like to thank the following who made honorary, tributary, or memorial donations during the 1st Quarter of 2021.

Paulianne Balch-RancourtIn memory of my mom, Dot Balch, who introduced me to sea otters
Casey BrightIn honor of my kids: Jesse, Lily, and Riley
Elise HammerIn honor of Coquille Indian Tribe Chief Don Ivy
Annie HerronIn honor of Bob Bailey
Gregory McMurrayIn honor of Dr. John V. Byrne


4th Quarter 2020 Donation Dedications

The Elakha Alliance would like to thank the following who made honorary, tributary, or memorial donations during the 4th Quarter of 2020.

Marilyn Bailey and Jim LeMayIn Honor of Bob Bailey
Paulianne Balch-RancourtIn Memory of her mother, Dot Balch
Larry BaschIn Memory of John S. Pearse
Casey BrightIn Honor of her children, Jesse, Lily, and Riley
Coleman and Delia BrownIn Honor of Avalyn Taylor and Tarn Fox
Charlie and Cindy BruceIn Honor of their grandchildren Kenny, Alexandra, Charlotte, Lincoln
Irene FizerIn Tribute to Al Nigrin
Aileen FreyIn Memory of Dave Hatch
David FunkIn Honor of Steve and Miel Funk
Chris FunkIn Honor of Stephen Funk
Robin HarrowerIn Honor of Bob Bailey
Beryl HarperIn Honor of her granddaughter Eva Doherty
Janice HarrisIn Honor of Preston and Barbara Harris
Holly HolykIn Honor of Richard Goette
Robert KenttaIn Memory of Dave Hatch
Judy KloosIn Memory of Dave Hatch
Deb MerchantIn Honor of Eddie Huckins
Beverly RatajakIn Honor of Cameron LaFollette
Alexis ReissmannIn Honor of Victoria Reissmann
David SextonIn Tribute to David Shepherdson
Sophia von HagenIn Honor of Georgia Kirkpatrick


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Thanks for participating in our October 2020 virtual symposium: “Sea Otters and the Kelp Ecosystem.”

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Webinar for Ocean Users and Core Stakeholders: The Legal Framework and Key Considerations Surrounding a Potential Sea Otter Restoration in Oregon

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Podcast Episode: A Deep Dive on Sea Otters

In Part V of our series, leading sea otter researcher Dr. Tim Tinker discusses new science and reveals the varied issues effecting sea otter populations across their pacific range  – from Alaska to California – including his perspectives on a possible Oregon reintroduction. 

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Podcast Episode: From Science to Solutions

In part IV of our series on the kelp ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest, we discuss kelp conservation on Oregon’s south coast with Tom Calvanese. Tom is a rockfish scientist, the Station Manager of the Port Orford Field Station, and a catalyst behind developing action to address kelp declines along Oregon’s south coast. Join us for a multi-dimensional conversation about kelp conservation. 

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Podcast Episode: A Narrative of Discovery with Jim Estes

In part III of our series on the kelp ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest, renowned marine biologist and sea otter researcher Jim Estes shares his story of science discovery. Fom a young graduate student on the Aleutian Islands to scientific breakthroughs, Jim reveals the profound ecological effects of a keystone predator.

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Podcast Episode: Understanding Urchins Part II

In part two of our series in the kelp ecosystem, marine biologist Scott Groth discusses an important urchin monitoring projects on Oregon’s nearshore. While red sea urchin numbers appear normal, purple sea urchin populations have exploded in recent years with alarming impacts to kelp forests in Oregon.

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Podcast Episode: The Kelp Ecosystem in the PNW Part I

A fascinating window into new discoveries in kelp ecology and conservation with Sara Hamilton – a leading researcher studying trends in kelp forests. Sara is a PhD student at Oregon State University.

Links to learn more: A story map compiled by the Samish tribe and others about the importance of kelp and it’s loss in that region:

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