A TEAM EFFORT
The Pacific Nearshore Project is being conducted by an integrated partnership of world-class research institutions, with the support of government and private organizations:
United States Geological Survey (USGS)
As the primary research agency of the U.S. Department of Interior, USGS is responsible for studying the natural resources and hazards of America’s landscapes — including our nearshore ecosystems. The Pacific Nearshore Project is primarily funded by DOI and is led by researchers from three USGS science centers:
Marine ecologist Jim Bodkin of the USGS Alaska Science Center is the project's chief scientist. Bodkin leads the Alaska, British Columbia and Washington expeditions and northern sea otter monitoring, with otter biologists George Esslinger, Kim Kloecker, Dan Monson and Brenda Ballachey. Fish biologists Chris Zimmerman and Vanessa von Biela are analyzing fish otoliths and other aspects of the fish and invertebrate food web, while Dave Douglas is creating GIS oceanographic models of plankton abundance trends.
From the USGS Western Ecological Research Center is marine ecologist Tim Tinker, who leads the California expeditions. Tinker conducts studies of sea otter diets, behavior, survival and reproduction, as well overseeing population monitoring with help from biologists Brian Hatfield, Christine Alfano, Joe Tomoleoni, as well as Mike Kenner and graduate student Ben Weitzman from the University of California-Santa Cruz. Leading the gene expression portion of the project is environmental toxicologist Keith Miles with geneticist Liz Bowen and researcher Anne Meckstroth. Bill Perry and Roberto Lugo provide additional GIS analysis of watershed landscape changes. Julie Yee will serve as the chief advisor on statistical modeling and help the project team analyze their data and explain the patterns and connections.
Finally, from the USGS Western Fisheries Research Center are researchers Debbie Reusser and Justin Saarinen, who are creating GIS hydrology models of nutrients and contaminants from inland watersheds into the nearshore ecosystem.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium provide veterinary expertise and key studies of wild and captive sea otters to inform the Pacific Nearshore Project. Veterinarian Mike Murray is the lead veterinarian on project expeditions, in charge of physical examinations, biopsies and operations. Michelle Staedler is the aquarium’s sea otter research coordinator and leads additional behavioral observations, field captures and laboratory studies of wild and captive southern sea otters. Learn more about the Monterey Bay Aquarium's sea otter research at http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/sorac.aspx.
National Park Service (NPS)
NPS biologist Heather Coletti assists with diet and behavioral observations for the project. Learn more about Coletti's work at http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/swan/staff_profile/staff_index.cfm?theme=HColetti.
Seattle Aquarium biologist Shawn Larson leads the Seattle Aquarium’s monitoring of northern sea otters in Washington state, along with Caroline Hempstead. Interpretation coordinator Darcie Larson is the lead on the Aquarium’s outreach and education efforts for the Pacific Nearshore Project. Learn more about the Seattle Aquarium at http://www.seattleaquarium.org.
University of Idaho
Professor Crystal Kolden leads the GIS studies on watershed landscape changes, using satellite imagery data to analyze wildfires, vegetation, land use change and other terrestrial factors and how these trends affect local watersheds and nearshore ecosystems. Learn more about Kolden's research at http://www.uidaho.edu/sci/geography/faculty/crystalkolden.
University of Wyoming
Researcher Seth Newsome leads the stable isotope analysis of tissue samples from sea otters, fish and marine invertebrates, using the chemical signatures of each species to determine their relationship and role in the nearshore food web and to compare the food web health of each nearshore ecosystem. Learn more about Newsome's research at http://web.me.com/snewsome.
California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) and University of California-Davis (UCD)
The Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center operated by CDFG and UCD is led by veterinarian Melissa Miller, who leads the laboratory necropsies and forensic examinations of sea otter carcasses to investigate disease, toxins, viruses and causes of death. Researcher Francesca Batac assists with sea otter tissue preservation and analysis. Learn more about the center at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/ospr/Science/marine-wildlife-vetcare/index.aspx.
The Pacific Nearshore Project has the support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which under the U.S. Endangered Species Act is the regulatory agency in charge of management and recovery plans for southern and northern sea otters in American waters.
The Pacific Nearshore Project receives additional support from the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Canadian Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, North Pacific Research Board and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.