A glimpse of winter field season for Erin Rechsteiner and crew, studying sea otters at the Hakia Institute

“We are currently up on Calvert Island, working at the Hakai Institute where we study the effects of sea otters on nearshore ecology year-round. In the winter, sea otters tuck into sheltered bays and inlets – probably to avoid storms – but in these habitats, their foraging choices are limited. The otters eat more clams in the winter than in summer, where they focus on prey like urchins from the outer shores. In the winter, rafts of males come to the range edge and occupy new areas where their diet – and the underwater community – change rapidly. At longer-occupied sites, winter is the season where otters feed more frequently in seagrass habitats, possibly increasing seagrass resilience by their digging, which can act as underwater pruning and promote growth. We are combining observations of sea otter diets with underwater monitoring work at the Hakai Institute to look at the ecological affects of sea otters in different nearshore communities.” –Erin Rechsteiner