USGS Western Ecological Research Center

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WERC scientists conduct annual population surveys of the southern sea otter -- a federally listed threatened species. In coordination with the California Department of Fish and Game and other institutions, ongoing surveys and research continues to inform the southern sea otter recovery plan for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and contributes to our understanding of sea otters and nearshore ecosystem health from California to Alaska.



Sea otters.
Sea otter research by scientists at the Santa Cruz Field Station of the USGS Western Ecological Research Center (WERC) focuses on this smallest marine mammal’s population biology and its role as a keystone species in the nearshore marine community.

WERC scientists conducting long-term research in California and Alaska seek to answer complex ecological questions. How do sea otters impact near-shore marine food webs? Why is California’s threatened sea otter population growing so slowly? What are the consequences of the rapid sea otter decline in the Aleutian Islands? We work with state, federal, and local partners throughout the species’ range, utilitizing tools and expertise from ecology, chemistry, geography and other disciplines.

Browse the menu to learn about sea otter biology and the annual California sea otter population survey. Click on the links below to explore other sea otter research projects conducted by WERC scientists and partners.

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