Sea Otter Population Changes in California
Hook Questions Procedure Data Investigation Analysis Findings New Questions
Beverly Bautista, Mike Lopez and Erin Turack
Click here to watch sea otters LIVE!!!
This is the story of Shelly the sea otter. She
lives in the Pacific Ocean off the shores of
southern California. Right now she's basking in the sun, holding herself in place by wrapping
the kelp around her body. She has many sea otter friends that live in the area today, but they
face many hazards because of humans. What might those hazards be? Sea otters were on the
brink of extinction just 40 years ago with only 38 remaining in California. Today, there are
many more...how? How many? Will it last, or will Shelly and her friends still be in danger
of not passing on life?
The questions students might end up asking may differ
slightly from those listed below. This allows the student to have a
more successful learning experience from the inquiry activity.
List the main questions that you want your students to ask:
1. Have sea otter populations changed? Are they currently increasing or decreasing in our waters?
2. Based on your findings, what will happen to sea otter populations in the future 10, 20 and 30 years from now?
3. How do sea otter pup numbers compare to adult population numbers? What does this comparison indicate about the general population?
List the sub-questions that your students may want to ask:
1. Is there a direct correlation between any event or legislation that may have affected sea otters and a change in population?
2. What could cause sea otter populations to decrease historically? What could cause them to decrease now?
3. What changes could humans make to help increase sea otter populations?
4. What is the significance of a decrease in only pup populations? What would an increase in pup numbers tell us?
Here are the links to find sea otter and sea otter pup
population numbers for 1983 - 2002:
www.seaotters.org/Otterscensus/index.cfm?DocID=31 - This website provides the same raw data and some calculated data, but no graphs.
Here are some links to historical population data in text:
www.otterproject.org/esu_1296/02.html - This page has a written section with historical range and population data, along with causes of decreases.
oceanlink.island.net/oinfo/otterpage/otter.html - This page also gives historical range and population data, along with conservation efforts.
Students should create a spreadsheet from the data given
in the websites. The historical data will not be used at this stage.
Their spreadsheet could be made in excel and look like the following:
Presenting relevant data is essential to communicating scientific knowledge. Here is a way for students to present what they have learned.