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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

2022 Sea Otter Science Symposium (October 25)

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

All are welcome to join us for a Virtual 1-day 2022 Sea Otter Science Symposium on Tuesday October 25th. The Symposium speakers hail from across the globe, which will make for some unique conversations and perspectives. Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to register.

This year, our focus is “Think Globally, Act Locally.” Our hope is that you take away valuable knowledge regarding the protection of our precious ocean ecosystems, no matter where you reside. You can make a difference! We want to say thank you to Defenders of Wildlife and Sea Otter Savvy for their partnership.

Photo: Ingrid Taylar

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

Tuesday October 25th: 9am-5:30pm PDT

  • 9:00am: KEYNOTE: Dr. Ralph Chami (Co-Founder of Blue Green Future): Natural Capital & Marine Conservation
  • 10:00am: Dr. Steven Rumrill (Shellfish Program Leader, ODFWS): Changes to Rocky Reef Habitat on the Southern Oregon Coast
  • 11:00am: Dr. Leigh Torres (Oregon State University, GEMM Lab): Importance of Kelp to Gray Whales
    ——– BREAK ——–
  • 1:30pm: Tom Calvanese (Oregon Kelp Alliance Coordinator): Toward Kelp Forest Restoration
  • 2:30pm: Tristin McHugh (Kelp Project Director, The Nature Conservancy): California Kelp Restoration Strategy
  • 3:30pm: Joanna Lyle (Blue Carbon Fellow, The Nature Conservancy | Oregon Sea Grant): Exploring Blue Carbon in Oregon
  • 4:30pm: Dr. Philip Seddon (University of Otago, New Zealand): IUCN Conservation Translocation Considerations

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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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

USFWS Panel Discussion: Sea Otter Reintroduction along Pacific West Coast (9/19/22)

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Join the Elakha Alliance as we welcome three representatives from the United State Fish & Wildlife Service to discuss all the details about potential sea otter reintroductions along the West Coast.

Photo: Arthur Morris, Getty Images

The Elakha Alliance has invited Lillian Carswell, who will give a short presentation summarizing the findings of the most recent USFWS Feasibility Assessment regarding the reintroduction of sea otters to Northern California and Oregon. Then, Michele Zwartjes and Michelle St. Martin will join Lillian Carswell on a panel to answer pertinent questions submitted by participants using the registration form below.

USFWS Panel Representatives:

  • Michele Zwartjes, Field Supervisor for the Oregon Coast Field Office, USFWS
  • Lillian Carswell, Southern Sea Otter Recovery & Marine conservation Coordinator, USFWS
  • Michelle St. Martin, Marine Conservation Coordinator, USFWS

This Webinar will take place on Monday September 19th, from 6:30pm-7:30pm PDT via Zoom. Use the form below to RSVP.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Sea Otter Awareness Week: The Road to Restoration in Oregon (9/18/22)

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Join Elakha’s Board President, Bob Bailey, as he discusses the next steps for sea otter reintroduction in Oregon.

Annually, throughout the last week of September (18-24), we celebrate sea otters during Sea Otter Awareness Week (SOAW). This year is the 20th anniversary of this celebration for these unique marine mammals! During this time we 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.

The Elakha Alliance is pleased to kick off SOAW this year! Bob Bailey, Elakha Alliance’s Board President, will present on the results from the Elakha scientific Feasibility Study and what our next steps are return sea otters back to Oregon’s coastline.

This presentation is part of Sea Otter Savvy’s We Were Here sea otter program, which is dedicated to educating communities and stakeholders who are missing sea otters. We encourage you to take the We Were Here Sea Otter Stakeholder Survey if you have a couple of minutes today.

This Webinar will take place on Sunday September 18th, from 12:00pm-1:00pm PDT via Zoom. Use the form below to RSVP.

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

OMSI After Dark: Surf & Sand (7/27/22)

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Stop by our table at OMSI After Dark and learn about sea otters!

Join us on Wednesday, July 27th from 6-10pm to explore the science of surf, sand, and sunsets, all in one place. Deep dive into all things ocean to understand the fun and mystery that makes up the deep blue.

CURRENT COVID RULES
At this time, entry to OMSI After Dark requires ONE OF THE FOLLOWING:
— Proof of COVID vaccination (2 shots by Moderna/Pfizer or 1 shot by J&J)
OR
— Proof of a negative PCR or antigen COVID test taken in the prior 72 hours. Tests must be medically administered. At-home tests are not accepted.

Masks are optional for guests although we still highly encourage you to wear a mask and recommend you wear an N95 or KN95. We are limiting capacity to 1,200 guests.21+ Only | ID’s are required for entry.

Questions? events@omsi.edu

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Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Oregon Ocean Paddling Society Monthly Meeting – Elakha Alliance (6/29/22)

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Oregon Ocean Paddling Society Monthly Meeting featuring the Elakha Alliance

Point Lobos Foundation

Virtual Chapter Meeting
June 29th, 2022

6:30pm-8:00pm

Register for virtual meeting here.

Join Chanel Hason, Director of Outreach & Community Relations of the Elakha Alliance, as she highlights how reintroducing sea otters would be extremely beneficial ecologically, economically, and culturally. 

This is a virtual meeting – the link will be sent to you 24 hours before the meeting in the third reminder email. To receive this link, you will need to register 24 hours prior to the meeting. We’re looking forwarding to seeing you!

The virtual doors open at 6:30.  During this time we will have themed break out rooms to talk about various kayaking topics and socialize.  The presentation will begin at 7:00. 

The Oregon Ocean Paddling Society was founded in 1983 by two couples leading  trips each month and mailing out a calendar.  A print newsletter called The Gam was once a highlight of membership.  They incorporated as a nonprofit in 1997 and now have around 400 members.

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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

Environment America’s Meet our Ocean: Ocean Life Panel (6/15/22)

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Join Environment America’s Webinar
Panel Discussion Ocean Life

Wednesday June 15 at 4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET

Register for Webinar: bit.ly/Ocean_webinars

From seals to sea otters to whales, our marine animals can only thrive when our ocean places are healthy. Learn more about the ocean critters we love and what we can do to keep their homes safe.

Speakers:

  • Lauren Divine – Aleut Community of St. Paul
  • Rev. Tiffany Holleck – Creation Justice Ministries
  • Bob Bailey & Chanel Hason – Elakha Alliance

Register at: bit.ly/Ocean_webinars

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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!”

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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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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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

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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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

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…