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Dr. Tim Tinker

Tim Tinker -- a post-doctoral researcher at the UC-Santa Cruz Long Marine Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center -- wants to understand how sea otters live. Over the last 10 years, he and his fellow researchers in Dr. Jim Estes’ lab have radio-tagged about 150 otters. They discovered that otters’ eating habits are very specialized, and that this specialization may affect their exposure to pollutants and disease. Tinker studies otters by watching them eat. Otters feed near the shore, they bring everything they capture on the bottom – snails, crabs, worms, etc. -- to the surface to eat, and they feed on their backs. “An otter that specializes in snails might bring up 20 or 30 turban snails on a single dive,” says Tinker, who uses a telescope so high-powered that he can see an otter’s individual whiskers. “We can count each one that’s been eaten.”

Center for Ocean Health
Long Marine Laboratory
University of California, Santa Cruz
Shaffer Road
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

 

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