I feel like I’ve been writing about dead sea otters a little too frequently recently–an unfortunate job hazard. This week the Monterey Bay Aquarium joined in with a profile of Dr. Melissa Miller’s work. Dr. Miller is a pathologist with the Department of Fish and Game, and her lab is responsible for conducting necropsies on otters to determine cause of death. Check out the Aquarium’s post at their blog Sea Notes.
I had the opportunity to observe a few necropsies at DFG a few weeks ago, during a visit to their Santa Cruz facility. It’s a messy job–and not for the feint at heart–but the information that is gathered during these necropsies is essential to help scientists answer the golden question: what is killing so many sea otters?
The answer can be complicated: lots of factors contribute to sea otter mortality; or simple: we are. Environmental degredation is exposing sea otters to more than they can handle.
The closer we get to understanding the answers to this question, the closer we get to knowing how to fix it. The Otter Project works to interpret what we know about sea otter mortality and threats, and to do something about it. This can take the form of trying to prevent further damage to otter habitat or in trying to remedy existing harms. Either way, knowing what we’re up against is key.