Oregon State University
Master’s student Laura Geissinger is investigating sea otter foraging behavior along Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Geissinger is specifically examining whether razor clams are part of the sea otter diet in that locale. Because there is a decline in razor clam population in this region, this study is set to determine if sea otters are adding to the decrease. If sea otters are contributing to the razor clam decline, there could be a human-sea otter conflict, which could have future implications for the sea otter and razor clam population management in the region.
Geissinger was in the field for close to 50 days over the summer where she collected data on over 100 forage bouts and completed 48 scan samples that identified specifically how sea otters are using the area. Additionally, she witnessed sea otters eating razor clams at several sites and was able to collect data in a wide range of weather conditions, tide states, and from early morning until late at night. The varying times and conditions give insight into sea otter usage in the region.
Elkhorn Slough Foundation
The Elkhorn Slough Foundation’s Reserve Otter Monitoring Program (ROMP) has been observing the sea otters of the Elkhorn Slough in central California for a number of years. The program has made valuable contributions to sea otter research and conservation.
You may recall that our grant in 2021 allowed the team to purchase iPad tablets to streamline their data entry of sea otter observations. This year our funding rounded out the purchase of the final seven iPads so that all volunteer team members have an iPad.
The iPads allow observers to quickly enter a variety of data, refer to reference maps, and avoid calculation errors and redundant entries. There are over 1000 data cells for each survey day! Now, with iPads present at each observation site, information can be entered by any team member at any of the 14 observation sites.
Improved monitoring data will enable scientists to accurately detect changes in spatial and temporal patterns of sea otter abundance, distribution and behavior in Elkhorn Slough, which will inform conservation and habitat restoration strategies. To that end, the ROMP team recently had a paper published in Ecosphere regarding their instrumental efforts for the sea otter.
Dr. Zachary Randell of the Seattle Aquarium continues his work to better understand the biological processes—such as the role of keystone sea otter predation—that provide resilience to Washington’s coastal ecosystems. Our funding purchased a BlueROV2 (pictured left with Randell and right during a dive) and we have funded the continuation of his research in 2022. Randell’s team has conducted a myriad of dives with the ROV and has obtained substantial imagery of the benthos.
In the fall, we participated with the aquarium to name the ROV and we are pleased to announce the official name is: ROV Nereo.