About the Class

Coastal river otters, like the ones that inhabit Whidbey Island, forage in both marine and freshwater environments and use the watershed and effluviant to the Sound to feed, travel, and socialize. As otters move between these ecotones, they are exposed to pollution and environmental contaminants (e.g., brominated flame retardants). Through an understanding of the Puget Sound's coastal river otter health and behavior, their diet and distribution, we have a better sense of the overall ecological health of Whidbey Island. Dr. Island will discuss the natural history of otters, the local populations around Island county and how you might become involved in monitoring, documenting, and collecting river otter data in Island County and other areas around the Puget Sound.

Dr. Island is a Professor of Comparative Animal Behavior and Neuroscience at Pacific University in Oregon and a Senior Research Associate for the Oregon Zoo. She is the Principal Investigator in a 4-year longitudinal study of Whidbey Island's North American river otters. Her interests concern the welfare of captive and wild otter populations found in the Pacific Northwest (North American River otter and Sea Otters). Among rescued and captive populations, Dr. Island is interested in the development of social learning, outlets for natural foraging, and psychological welfare. Among wild otters, her work focuses specifically on Island County marine-foraging river otters, their distribution, diet, foraging patch variability between fresh (e.g., Lake Pondilla, Admirals Lake, Lake Crockett, etc.) and saltwater (e.g., Admiralty Bay, Bush Point, Bell's Beach, etc.), photo identification of individual animals, and their genetic pedigrees, as well as their load of persistent organopollutants, collected through non-invasive and salvage sampling. The latter is particularly relevant for understanding the health of the local ecology.

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