Water Monitoring Program

Friends of the Sea Otter has partnered with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to monitor water quality within current and potential sea otter habitat off the coast of California. Sea otters are susceptible to many types of biotoxins that result in Domoic Acid poisoning and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (also harmful to humans). By learning the locations and providing early warning of large algae bloom events, we can work toward lessoning their occurrence and protect sea otters.

2 Water Monitoring Program

Overabundance of harmful algae can
result in phenomon known as red tide. (Kai Schumann)

What do volunteers do?

Marine water monitoring volunteers collect water samples weekly using a 20 m mesh plankton net with a 200 mL collection bottle at the end. The samples are then transferred to a sample bottle that is mailed to a CDPH laboratory. Interested volunteers can inquire about further sample testing that can be performed onsite.

What does it take to be a volunteer?

Marine water monitoring volunteers should be at least 18 years old. This program is ideally suited for a student studying public health or other science, but science background or education is not required.

Where do volunteers collect samples?

Sample locations exist all along the Californian coast. Even samples collected outside the current range of the southern sea otter can be helpful to monitor possible barriers to sea otter expansion.

Sample sites should be from a pier, jetty, or other structure that would allow for the vertical plankton net collect a sample, or from water crafts (kayaks, boats, etc). FSO and CDPH will work with interested volunteers to find suitable sampling sites.

Want more information?

Click here to download the protocol for collecting marine water samples, or go to Public Health’s website by clicking here. You can also contact FSO at info@seaotters.org or 831.915.3275 with any more questions.

Sign up!

To apply as a marine water monitoring volunteer, fill out our online application below and a representative from FSO will contact you shortly.