Research divers from USGS and UC Santa Cruz prepare to capture wild sea otters for study as part of the Pacific Nearshore Project. (Image Credit: USGS)

The Pacific Nearshore Project is a multinational, multiagency project investigating sea otters as health indicators of coastal waters and marine resources from California north through Canada and Alaska. The project is led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) with key research partners from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Seattle Aquarium, University of California, University of Idaho, University of Wyoming and California Department of Fish and Game.

Sea otters and the nearshore ecosystems they inhabit—from highly urbanized California to relatively pristine Alaska—are the focus of a new multidisciplinary study by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and a suite of international, academic and government collaborators. The Coastal Ecosystem Responses to Influences from Land and Sea project will investigate the many interacting variables that influence the health of coastal ecosystems along the Northeast Pacific shore. These ecosystems face unprecedented challenges, with threats arising from the adjacent oceans and lands. From the ocean, challenges include acidification, sea level rise, and warming. From the land, challenges include elevated biological, geological and chemical pollutants associated with burgeoning human populations along coastlines. The implications of these challenges for biological systems are only beginning to be explored. Comparing sea otter population status indicators from around the northeastern Pacific Rim, will begin the process of defining factors of coastal ecosystem health in this broad region.

Click here to visit the USGS Pacific Nearshore Project website