Estes & Tinker Lab at the Santa Cruz Field Station

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


Michelle Staedler, Sea Otter Research Coordinator
Monterey Bay Aquarium, Sea Otter Research and Conservation


For the past 25 years I have been working as a sea otter field biologist and sea otter research coordinator for the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program . Though I have worked on all aspects of sea otter behavioral studies, I am particularly interested in prey preferences of individuals, female reproduction and maternal care with regards to pup development and survival. My masters' thesis work will be the first to focus on maternal care, rate of pup ontogeny and survival to weaning of sea otter pups as a function of diet specialization by mothers. The success of the birth to weaning process and foraging strategy a female uses may have a significant impact on the stagnant growth of the California sea otter population. This study will assess the role of maternal care in the slow growth of the California sea otter population and will contribute to the recommendations of the Sea Otter Recovery Plan and development of informed conservation polices for this threatened species.


B.A. Environmental Studies
University of California, Santa Cruz 1986

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


Hatfield, B.B., J.A. Ames, J.A. Estes, M.T. Tinker, E.B. Johnson, M.M. Staedler, and M.D. Harris. 2011. Sea otter mortality in fish and shellfish traps: estimating potential impacts and exploring possible solutions. Endangered Species Research 13:219-229.

Miller, Melissa A., Raphael M. Kudela, Abdu Mekebri, Dave Crane, Stori C. Oates, M. Timothy Tinker,
Michelle Staedler, Woutrina A. Miller, Sharon Toy-Choutka, Clare Dominik, Dane Hardin, Gregg
Langlois, Michael Murray, Kim Ward, David A. Jessup. In press. Impacts of Freshwater Cyanotoxin
Blooms on Marine Ecosystems: Microcystin Transfer from Land to Sea Otters. PLoS ONE 2010

Hatfield, B.B., Ames, J.A., Estes, J.A., Tinker, M.T., Johnson, A.B., Staedler, M.M., and Harris, M.D.
Sea otter mortality in traps. Endangered Species Research.2010

Harris, Heather S., Stori C. Oates, Michelle M. Staedler, M. Tim Tinker, David A. Jessup, James T. Harvey, and Melissa A. Miller. 2010. and Behavior Associated with Forced Copulation of Juvenile Pacific Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina richardsi) by Southern Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris nereis). Aquatic Mammals 36(4): 219-229,

Newsome, S.D., M.T. Tinker, D.H. Monson, O.T. Oftedal, K. Ralls, M. Staedler, M.L. Fogel, and J.A. Estes. 2009. Using stable isotopes to investigate individual diet specialization in California sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis). Ecology 90: 961-974.

Johnson, C.K., Tinker, M.T., Estes, J.A., Conrad, P.A., Staedler, M., Miller, M.A., Jessup, D.A. and Mazet, J.A.K. 2009. Prey choice and habitat use drive sea otter pathogen exposure in a resource-limited coastal system. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(Early Edition).

Tinker, M.T., D.F. Doak, J.A. Estes, B.B. Hatfield, M.M. Staedler, and J.L. Bodkin. 2006.
Incorporating diverse data and realistic complexity into demographic estimation procedures: a
case study using the California sea otter, Enhydra lutris nereis. Ecological Applications 16:2293-

Estes, J.A., Riedman, M.L., Staedler, M.M., Tinker, M.T., and Lyon, B.E. 2003.   Individual variation in prey species selection by sea otters: patterns, causes, and implications. J. An. Eco. 72, 144 -155.

Hanni , K. D., Mazet, J.K., Gulland, F.M.D., Estes, J.A., Staedler, M., Murray , M.J., Miller, M., and Jessup, D.A. 2003. Clinical pathology and assement of pathogen exposure in Southern and Alaskan sea otters. J. Wildl. Dis. 39(4) 837 - 850.

Kvitek , R.G., Bowlby , C.E., and Staedler, M., 1993. Diet and foraging behavior of sea otters in southeast Alaska. Mar. Mamm. Sci . 9(2): 168-181.

Larson, S., Jameson, R., Bodkin, J., Staedler, M., and Bentzen, P. 2002. Microsatelitte DNA and mitochondrial DNA variation in remnant and translocated sea otter (Enhydra lutris) populations. J. Mamm. 83(3); 893-906.

McShane, L.J., Estes, J.A., Riedman, M.L., and Staedler, M.M. 1995. Repetoire, structure,and individual variation of vocalizations in the sea otter. J. Mamm. 76(2); 414-427.

Riedman, M.L., Estes, J.A., Staedler, M.M., Giles, A.A., and Carlson, D.R. 1994. Breeding patterns and reproductive success of California sea otters. J. Wildl. Manage. 58(3)391-399.

Staedler, M.M. and Riedman, M. 1993. Fatal mating injuries in female Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris nereis). Mammalia. 57 (1); 135-139.

Staedler, M.M
., and Riedman, M.L. 1989. A case of adoption in the California sea otter. Mar.Mamm. Sci. 5:391-394




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