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Blog Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Elakha Alliance Seeks an Executive Director

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Must Have Skills and Experience

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

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

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

● Experience working with Tribes and government agencies

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

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

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

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

Desirable Skills and Experience

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

● Knowledge of Oregon coastal politics, players, and geographies

● Experience with personnel management and human resources

● Experience with nonprofit or agency budgeting and financial management

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

● Experience interacting with a nonprofit Board of Directors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compensation and Benefits

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

● Starting Health Care stipend of $400 per month

● Generous vacation and wellness benefits

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

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

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

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

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

● The date you could commence working

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

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

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

Categories
Events Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

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

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Balancing Sea Otter &
Human Interactions

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

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

Speaker Bios:

Heather Barrett & Gena Bentall

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

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

Categories
Blog Science and Conservation of Sea Otters

Elakha’s 2021 Year In Review

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Summarized by Bob Bailey,
Elakha Alliance Board President

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

Chief Don Ivy

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

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

Feasibility Study

Feasibility Study Poster, art by Lonny Hurley.

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

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

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

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

Sea Otter Science Symposium

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

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

Economic Impact Assessment

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

Building Public Support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fundraising

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

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

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

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

South Coast Community Liaison

Overlooking Bandon Beach. Photo by Chanel Hason.

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

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

Videos

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

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

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

A Glimpse of the Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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


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

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