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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

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…

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: Oregon’s Lost Sea Otters

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Restoring a Cultural Heritage and Ecological Keystone

Presented by the MidCoast Watersheds Council on Thursday, March 4th, at 6:30pm, as part of their virtual Community Meeting.

It is hard to appreciate the cultural importance and ecological significance of a species that vanished 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? Join Peter Hatch and John Goodell, from the Elakha Alliance, as they discuss the history and possible future of sea otters in Oregon.


Presenters:

Peter Hatch is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and works in the tribe’s Cultural Resources office. Peter is the son of the late David Hatch – the co-founder of the Elakha Alliance.

John Goodell is a conservation biologist and former museum curator with a background in science communication and natural history interpretation.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Urchins, Kelp, and Sea Otters: A Webinar for Oregon’s Freedive & Scuba Community

Don’t miss this informative webinar on Thursday, January 21st at 6:30pm, sponsored by the Oregon Freediving Company. Wildlife Biologist and Elakha Outreach Director John Goodell, and Oregon Kelp Alliance Coordinator Tom Calvanese, will discuss concerning trends in Oregon’s kelp ecosystem, urchin management, and the Elakha Alliance’s plan to reintroduce sea otters.

Goodell will also discuss opportunities for the freediving and scuba community to participate in citizen science in collaboration with marine biologists. Register Now!

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Oregon’s Lost Sea Otters: Restoring a Cultural Heritage and Ecological Keystone

Webinar: Thursday, January 14th, at 7:00pm

Please join us for this free virtual talk hosted on Fort George Brewery’s Facebook page via Fort George Brewery Facebook Live event.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: December 17th, 7:00pm

The Plight of Oregon’s Kelp Ecosystem, Sea Otters, and our Plan

Join Board President Bob Bailey and Director of Outreach John Goodell for an introductory webinar about the Elakha Alliance. We will discuss the origins of the Elakha Alliance, conservation issues surrounding the kelp ecosystem, and why sea otter reintroduction may be an important conservation tool. December 17th at 7:00pm

Register for the webinar to receive links.

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Meet the Dream-Team!

One of our most important goals of 2021 is the completion of the Feasibility Study. We are thrilled to announce this is now in the hands of a powerhouse team of six leading scientists! This third-party study will evaluate key dimensions of a proposed sea otter reintroduction, including: source populations and population dynamics, habitat suitability, ecological considerations, social and economic impacts, legal requirements, logistics, and more.

Meet the team:

  • Jim Bodkin, retired  Research Wildlife Biologist with the US Geological Survey Alaska Science Center 
  • Jim Estes,  ecologist and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at USGS & University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Jan Hodder, Emeritus Professor, University of Oregon Institute of Marine Biology
  • Shawn Larson, Curator of Conservation Research at the Seattle Aquarium 
  • Mike Murray, Senior Veterinary Scientist, Jane Dunay Director of Veterinary Services, Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Tim Tinker, Research Wildlife Biologist with the Western Ecological Research Center of the U.S. Geological Survey, and an adjunct Professor at UC Santa Cruz
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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Virtual Symposium Recordings are Available!

If you missed some of the talks at the recent Elakha Alliance Virtual Science Symposium, here are the links recordings for 6 of the 8 talks. Unfortunately we had technical difficulties with our second day of recordings. We are looking forward to seeing you at our next virtual event.

View recorded symposium presentations here…

 A. Dr Jim Estes Keynote Address

#1 Scott Groth on the history of sea urchin fishing and their populations in Oregon

#2 Sarah Hamilton on the conservation status of Pycnopodia (sunflower sea star)

#3 Josh Smith on patchiness in kelp and urchin barrens

#6 Brent Hughes on the ecological influence of sea otters on eelgrass communities

#7 Tim Tinker on considerations for the recolonization of sea otters in Oregon

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Virtual Science Symposium: Sea Otters & Oregon’s Kelp Ecosystem October 6, 7, 8

In Partnership with Hatfield Marine Science Center & the Oregon Chapter of the Wildlife Society

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The prospect of restoring sea otters to the Oregon coast raises important ecological and economic considerations to be explored in this symposium.

Over several days, this symposium will offer three virtual sessions, 7 total presentations, with discussion. Presentations will explore current scientific understanding of key issues that are central to future decisions about restoration.

Keynote Address by renowned sea otter ecologist Dr. Jim Estes, October 6th, at 7pm (~45min)

Science Sessions will be held October 6, 7,and 8, from 1 pm to approximately 3:15 pm based on Q&A participation

Presenters will include ODFW urchin biologist Scott Groth, OSU kelp ecosystem researcher Sara Hamilton, sea otter researcher Dr. Tim Tinker, estuary ecologist Brent Hughes, interdisciplinary researcher Dr. Ed Gregr and more! Explore more information about the speakers here…

Register below and receive links to the video-conference and the full schedule. Please consider donating support this symposium

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Get to Know Our Symposium Speakers!

Interested in attending our virtual symposium and want to learn more about our presenters? Check out our speakers biographies here. (Click on the link above or click on either image below to see the full document)

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

The Elakha Alliance in Paddler Magazine

Author, photographer, and Oregonian Neil Shullman recently published a great piece in Paddler Magazine, about the Elakha Alliances effort to return sea otters to the Oregon coast. ‘Welcome Back, Otter: inside the fight to bring an ecological super hero back home‘ starts with Neil perched on a rock on Knight Island in Prince William Sound in Alaska – as he listens through the foggy scenery, to the crunching sound of sea otters consuming shellfish. “I know the sound, although it’s been missing in my home state of Oregon for more than a century, writes Shullman.

Read the article…

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Joint Webinar Co-hosted by Environment Oregon: Oregon’s Kelp Ecosystem & Sea Otters

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Join the Elakha Alliance and Environment Oregon on September 23rd at 6:00pm, for a joint webinar discussing the status of the kelp ecosystem in Oregon, including conservation issues and policy considerations. We will discuss how a possible sea otter reintroduction may play a foundational role in the restoration of this key ecosystem. Presenters include Elakha Board President Bob Bailey, and John Goodell, Director of Outreach and Community Engagement

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Beyond Kelp: How Sea Otters Cultivate Healthy Estuaries

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The role of sea otters in sustaining a healthy kelp ecosystem is well known, however new research from Monterey Bay in California, reveals how the presence of sea otters builds seagrass habitat, which in-turn buffers the effects of pollution and increases marine productivity in the estuary.

Explore this article from The Guardian…

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: Legal and Economic Dimensions of Sea Otter Reintroduction

Species re-introductions involve complex biological, legal, and social consideration for agencies, scientists, stakeholders, and communities. However, evaluating a species associated with effects on economically valuable resources, makes assessments and input all-the-more important.

Please join Elakha Board President Bob Bailey and USFWS biologist Michele Zwartjes, on August 26th at 6pm, for a webinar presentation designed to explore the legal, scientific, and social framework of sea otter reintroduction; where things stand now, and what are the next steps? Register soon!

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Podcast: Sea Otters & Zooarchaeology

The Emerging Role of Zooarchaeology

Check out the recent Northwest Nature Matters podcast with Professor Madonna Moss about her fascinating research into the pre-historic use of sea otters by indigenous tribes in the Pacific Northwest. Professor Moss is the Curator of Zooarchaeology, at the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, and studies the long term history of Native Americans and First Nations of the Northwest Coast of North America, with a special focus on Tlingit and Haida and their ancestors.

Also known as faunal analysis, zooarchaeology involves studying remains of animals from archaeological sites including remains like bones, shells, hair, fish scales, hides, and DNA. Professor Moss explained how faunal evidence can support a wide range of natural resource and cultural resource questions. Moss describes how her research into the past use of sea otters by PNW tribes helped confirm their own oral histories, and defend their tribe’s cultural practices against outside opposition. Listen….

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Webinar: What can we learn from past reintroductions to prepare us for an Oregon plan?

The Elakha Alliance and the Defenders of Wildlife are pleased to announce a joint webinar that explores sea otter restoration in adjacent Pacific coast regions where recovery efforts have occurred. The discussion will consider how these examples may advise a sea otter reintroduction in Oregon. This presentation will be led my leadership of the Elakha Alliance, along with the Defenders of Wildlife’s PNW team.

When: July 14th, 6:00pm7:00pm

Who: Anybody

By Whom: Presented by the Elakha Alliance and staff from the Defenders of Wildlife.

Sign up and we will email you the link and password information.

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Elakha Alliance in the News!

Northwest News reporter, and regular OPB contributor, Tom Banse, chats with the Elakha Alliance’s leadership about new research coming out of British Columbia. Economists and social scientists studied the effects of sea otter population growth on human communities, with some interesting implications for Oregon. Read the full story….

A sea otter in the waters off Vancouver Island
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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Sea Otter Recovery Makes National News

British Columbia sea otter populations are on the move – as they reoccupy portions of their historical range. The effects of this expansion in benefiting ecological resiliency, commercial fisheries, tourism, and climate change – but some trade-offs exists such as the short-term impacts to the subsistence shellfish gathering by local tribal communities. Researchers underscore the need to improve tribal voices in natural resource management – to ensure the long-term success of sea otter conservation.

Explore these news stories to learn more…

Also, a new paper in the Journal Science reveals the economic boom expected from sea otter recovery – with some trade-offs to specific sectors.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/sea-otter-benefits-180975086/

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

In the News: Sea Otters Still Recovering From the Russian Fur Trade

Sea otter conservation in the news: A new op-ed piece reflects on the long-term population consequences of the nearly 300 year-old sea otter fur trade.

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Elakha Alliance Launches New Podcast Series with Northwest Nature Matters

The Elakha Alliance is partnering with Northwest Nature Matters to produce a multi-part podcast series on the kelp ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest! Episodes will cover topics such as kelp conservation, sea otter science, sea start wasting disease, sea urchins and urchin barrens, climate change and more! Listen to episodes here!

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Video: Board President Bob Bailey Gives Sea Otter Talk in Gold Beach

Board President Bob Bailey presents a presentation on the history of sea otters in Oregon and their possible reintroduction! Hosted by the Curry Watersheds Partnership

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Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Elakha Alliance Receives Grant for Feasibility Study

In the news: The Elakha Alliance is thrilled to announce a grant award from the USFWS to study the feasibility of a sea otter reintroduction to the Oregon Coast!