Michelle Staedler, Sea Otter Program Manager

Areas of expertise: Sea Otters, Research, Science & Conservation

Since 1986 Michelle Staedler has devoted her research career at the aquarium to sea otters and the recovery of this threatened species. She works as a sea otter field biologist and sea otter research coordinator, notably in a variety of sea otter behavioral studies.

Her main interest is in the prey preferences of individual sea otters, female reproduction, and maternal care as it affects pup development and survival. Her master’s thesis work was 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 explain the stagnant growth of the California sea otter population.

Michelle’s work contributed to policies included in the Sea Otter Recovery Plan and development of informed conservation polices for this threatened species.

In addition to field studies that have taken her from California to Alaska, she has completed several projects involving exhibit animals at the aquarium and non-releasable sea otters housed at research centers in Santa Cruz.

Michelle earned her master's degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at  the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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