Study of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Program

otter_feedingThe Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Program (SOP) has been studying the threatened southern sea otter since 1984 with the aim of understanding pressures on the population and helping to promote its recovery. Staff along with a pool of trained volunteers help rescue, treat and release injured otters; raise and release stranded pups through their surrogate program; and seek homes for sea otters that can’t return to the wild. Otter Care Volunteers support the Aquarium’s sea otter research and conservation program with the care and release of abandoned, ill or injured sea otters. Field Research Volunteers assist in tracking and researching threatened southern sea otters in their natural habitat.

In collaboration with SOP staff and the Director of Science and Conservation, we designed a 2-year, mixed-method study of the SOP volunteer program. The study was intended to evaluate the quality and value of the volunteer training and support provided and to generate feedback on enhancements to the training and operation of the program. The results of the study were intended inform the development of a multiyear sea otter research and ecosystem-based conservation strategy with a focus on range expansion and coastal sustainability.