Help us save sea otters

She's savvy about sea otters

Growing up on the East Coast, Michelle Staedler had never seen a sea otter until she moved to California. She's been fascinated ever since.

Michelle specializes in the behavior of mother and pup pairs. She manages the Aquarium's Sea Otter Program and has studied these iconic animals for over 30 years.

Her work contributed to guidelines included in the federal Sea Otter Recovery Plan, as well as development of conservation policies for this threatened species.

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Michelle Staedler looking through a spotting scope into the ocean
Wild sea otter

Michelle's research has also helped prove that sea otters are awesome ecosystem engineers. They bring balance all the way down the food chain, restoring coastal habitats and enabling the entire ecosystems to thrive. They're critical to a healthy California coast.

Michelle and her team doing research

New discoveries every day

Michelle says she still discovers new things about sea otters. That knowledge can enhance our pioneering surrogacy program, which pairs our exhibit sea otters with orphaned pups. The young animals learn vital survival skills from their surrogate mothers before we release them into the wild.

In nearby Elkhorn Slough, a nationally significant wetland, nearly 60 percent of the otters are graduates of our surrogacy program and their offspring. This reflects the success of our unique approach to caring for orphaned pups.

"So not only are we saving these animals, we're also releasing them in places they are desperately needed — boosting the wild population and the health of the ecosystem," Michelle says.

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Michelle Staedler standing on shore next to a spotting scope
Surrogate sea otter mom and pup

Michelle's always looking for anything that can give young animals a better chance to thrive once they're out of our care. We even learn from them after release, as we keep an eye on all graduates of our surrogacy program throughout their lives.

Your support today will allow Michelle and our team of experts to continue their research on what affects the sea otter's fragile population. Donate today!

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No other institution in the world matches our robust approach to sea otter recovery. Your support means so much to our groundbreaking sea otter conservation program.