Tinker & Estes Lab and Santa Cruz Field Station

A cooperative unit of United States Geological Survey and University of California, Santa Cruz

Jim phots

Gena Bentall, Program Coordinator
Sea Otter Savvy


As a biologist with an interest in ecology and marine invertebrates, I have found my home in the study of sea otters. Beyond their obvious charismatic qualities, sea otters provide a multitude of opportunities to examine ecological and behavioral questions and theories among which foraging ecology and sociobiology are of particular interest to me. Since 2001, I have spent 100s of hours engaging my fascination for invertebrate diversity by watching sea otters eat and recording foraging data at locations from Bering Island in the Russian Far East to San Nicolas Island in Southern California.

While I am still actively tracking foragers, I am also currently engaged in a study of the social behavior and ecological conditions that effect the formation of sexually segregated groups throughout the California sea otter range. Male dominated groups are persistent both spatially and temporally across all sea otter populations and I am working to understand what draws males of all age classes together and how they function relative to the reproductive tactics of adult males. I still find my study species engaging and fascinating and can honestly say that each morning, when I first look through my spotting scope, I am excited to see what they are doing


B.S. Zoology
Oregon State University, Corvalis 2001

M.A. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
University of California, Santa Cruz 2005



Seth D. Newsome, Bentall, G. B., Tinker M. T., Oftedal, O., Ralls, K. Fogel, M. L.,Estes, J. A. Variation in 13C and 15N diet-vibrissae discrimination factors in a wild population of California sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) Ecological Applications 2010.

Tinker, M.T., Bentall, G.B., and J.A. Estes. 2008 Food limitation leads to behavioral diversification and dietary specialization in sea otters. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105: 560-565.







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