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River Otter Ecology Project celebrates 10 years

This spring the River Otter Ecology Project will celebrate ten years of highly-effective work engaging the public in supporting conservation and restoration through education, research, and community science, by linking the recovery of the North American river otter in the Bay Area to the health of our watersheds and wetlands.

“Expanding Our Range” is a gala event taking place May 1 from 2 to 5 p.m. at Hans Fahden Winery in Calistoga. Like our charismatic otter ambassadors, this celebration promises tons of fun at the gardens and ponds of the winery. Otter sightings are even a possibility along with great food & wine. Tickets for the event are available at https://riverotterecology.org/expanding-our-range-event-landing-page.

Event sponsors include Safari West; Hans Fahden Vineyards; 415IT; H.T. Harvey & Associates; Hanford; Blue Waters Kayak, Sonoma County Conservation Action, and a host of generous private supporters.

River otter in the reeds. Tom Reynolds photo.
River otter in the reeds. Tom Reynolds photo.

Since inception, River Otter Ecology project’s vision has been to inspire personal connections and motivate meaningful actions to preserve our shared natural landscapes for future generations. In recognition of this, Executive Director Megan Isadore has been honored with Bay Nature Magazine’s 2022 Local Hero Award in Environmental Education for her “significant contribution to public understanding and awareness of the natural history and ecology of the San Francisco Bay Area, through research, teaching, field trips, journalism, and/or other media.”

River otters can inhabit every part of a watershed, from the headwaters all the way down to the coast. They spend more than half their time on land, but hunt and travel from place to place in the water. This travel can be dangerous, as motor vehicles are a significant hazard. Our project’s “Otter Spotter” is a fantastic community science program made to collect, map and save otter sightings and it’s inspiring to know that river otters are found in Sonoma County, and in fact, were never completely missing from Sonoma unlike most other Bay Area counties. They apparently always inhabited the Russian River, though records are scarce, and have made a comeback in the Bayside areas of Sonoma. Please see our map (https://riverotterecology.org/otter-spotter-community-based-science/) ; then “see larger map” to get the interactive experience; and click on the yellow dots for some wonderful little stories of local otter sightings.

Milestones we’re celebrating in our history

- 10 years of non-invasive river otter monitoring that powers our research and helps resource managers understand the ecosystems they protect

- 4,474 Otter sightings through Otter Spotter that inform us of otter presence all over California and beyond, leading to an updated Cal Fish & Wildlife range map, public awareness, and basis for our new Otter Spots! Community Science Initiative

- 180 Presentations and environmental events providing public education about otters and our shared watersheds, helping everyone understand the importance of protecting land and water for future generations (and providing a lot of fun during tough times)

-282 Hands on High School students received outdoor, experience-based environmental education, helping them understand their opportunities to support our shared watersheds

- 2 Published peer-reviewed research papers

- 30+ Research and technical reports to federal, state, and local agencies

- 15 Comment letters and public testimony on agency project proposals based on our research

- 45+ Volunteers trained and deployed

- 19 High school, college, and graduate internships

-84 Awareness media spots through print, television, online, and radio

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