When people read stories about sea otters in the news, it's often a report about how a sea otter population is declining, or some other factor impairing their health.
Why sea otter populations remain threatened in some locations is a tough nut to crack. Scientists are investigating the question from many different angles: health exams performed by veterinarians; wild observations by biologists; hair and blood analysis by laboratory chemists; the list goes on.
To learn more about the many aspects of sea otter biology research, check out this feature article from last week's New York Times:
The article interviews many of the researchers working closely together to understand sea otter health in the Pacific Northwest, including USGS biologists Tim Tinker, Brian Hatfield, Lizabeth Bowen and Jim Bodkin, as well as their colleagues from the California Department of Fish and Game, University of Wyoming and elsewhere.
If you're still curious after reading the article, learn more about the USGS Pacific Nearshore Project at its homepage at http://on.doi.gov/nearshore.
-- Ben Young Landis