Skip to content

Sea Otter Study in Sitka

Pearson suspects that the kelp forests in Sitka Sound are in good shape in part because of sea otters.

Assistant Professor of Marine Biology Heidi Pearson is studying how sea otter feeding habits may be changing the ecology of Sitka Sound. Pearson theorizes that by feeding on sea urchins, otters stabilize the kelp forests. Pearson suspects that the kelp forests in Sitka Sound are in good shape in part because of sea otters. She told KCAW public radio in Sitka, “The kelp forests could be healthier because the sea otters are here and keeping that sea urchin grazing pressure low. And then the kelp forests of course in turn provides habitat for other species such as some fish.” The Alaska Department of Fish and Game re-introduced otters in Southeast Alaska in the 1960’s. Since then, their populations have expanded and they now occupy continuously the outer coast of Southeast as well as parts of Frederick Sound, Icy Strait, and Glacier Bay. This summer, Pearson and Assistant Professor of Marine Biology Jan Straley of the Sitka campus are mapping the habitat where sea otters are feeding. Also on the project is student Kierstin Barlow. Barlow is a fourth-year marine biology major at the University of Alaska Southeast. She’ll be conducting the research out of Straley’s university laboratory at the Sitka Sound Science Center, observing otter populations and mapping kelp.

 
 

Content maintained by Webmaster.