Who in the animal kingdom uses tools to crack open food? Chimpanzees, long-tailed macaques, bearded capuchin monkeys… and sea otters! Sea otters are “handy” and pick snails from kelp and rocks and dig deep in the mud for clams. They are only mammals that catch fish with their forepaws rather than their teeth. Some sea otters use a tool to open prey and methods are learned and refined from mother to pup through generations and through social learning.
Before arriving at the South Slough Reserve, Lead Scientist Angela Doroff worked in Alaska for 28 years in the field of marine biology. Her specialty was working with sea otters, though she also worked on long-term water quality and shoreline monitoring, sea-level rise projections, and ocean acidification programs at the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. “I’ve had the opportunity to help bridge science and local information needs, work with kids of all ages, and collaborate with some amazing researchers,” Angela says. At the South Slough she’ll continue to work on estuary science, help fill data gaps and information needs for local decision-makers and the community, and get to learn about the area from people who live and work in the Coos Bay-Charleston area. Originally from Homer, Alaska, Angela says she likes “learning, collaborating and sharing information about marine habitats and all of the amazing life they support.”