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Pacific Nearshore Project

Boating to the dive site to capture sea ottersIn 2009, three USGS Science Centers as well as the Minerals Management Service (MMS), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, (EVOS), the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium collaborated to develop and implement a new study to evaluate north Pacific nearshore ecosystems. The objective of the study is to improve our understanding of the factors currently affecting the health and productivity of six separate sea otter populations from California to the Katmai coast of Alaska. The study design incorporates ecosystem productivity, watershed inputs, and diet and nutrition as primary factors potentially influencing nearshore ecosystems and regulating sea otter population abundance and growth rates. Ecosystem productivity will be estimated through 1) growth rates of nearshore fishes and 2) satellite imagery (e.g., chlorophyll and temperature) and remotely sensed data (e.g., oceanographic stations). Watershed modifications and inputs into the nearshore will be estimated through satellite imagery (e.g., Landsat & MODIS) and hydrographic stations. Sea otter diet and nutrition will be estimated through direct observation of foraging otters. Concurrently, we will evaluate the health of the nearshore ecosystem as reflected in the expression of genes (as novel biomarkers) specific to: 1) organic pollutants, 2) metals, 3) parasites, 4) bacterial infection, 5) viral infection, and 6) thermal stress, in each sea otter population. The combined data sets on: 1) nearshore productivity, 2) watershed inputs, 3) sea otter diet and nutrition, and 4) sea otter gene expression will support a multivariate analysis of empirical factors likely responsible for directing the present status and trend of geographically distinct sea otter populations, and by inference, nearshore ecosystems more generally.

Pacific Nearshore Project web site hosted by the USGS Western Ecological Research Center.


Coastal Ecosystem Responses to Influences from Land and Sea

USGS Western Ecological Research Center - Pacific Nearshore Project

USGS Western Ecological Research Center - Contaminant Immune Functions

USGS Western Ecological Research Center - Molecular and Genetic Ecology

Niche Variation and Dietary Specialization in Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris)

The Seattle Aquarium - The Pacific Nearshore Project

The Monterey Bay Aquarium

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary - Sea Otter and Pacific Nearshore Project

What 300 Sea Otters Can Tell Us About the Ocean - Wired Science October 6, 2011

Pacific Nearshore Project uses sea otters as barometer -[PDF file 272 kb]

Selected references

Bodkin, J. L. 2010. Coastal Ecosystem Responses to Influences from Land and Sea Coastal and Ocean Science. USGS Fact Sheet 2010-3099, 2 p. [Details] [Full Publication]

USGS Launches Multidisciplinary Investigation of Northeast Pacific Sea Otter Populations and Nearshore Ecosystems. March 2010. USGS Sound Waves.

DOI on the Landscape Coastal Ecosystem Responses to Influences from Land and Sea Full Study Plan (2.09MB Word doc)


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