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About the Scientist

Brenda Ballachey is a wildlife biologist in Alaska. She studies native sea otters and their marine community. Her work takes her to places like Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, to study the effects of environmental disasters on sea otter survival.

Brenda Ballachey

Biography of Brenda Ballachey

Find out more about Brenda on the Sea Otter Biologist CD-ROM. The complete biography is 13 pages and includes a glossary.

A brown furry sea otter the size of a collie dives

down into the clear blue water of Prince William Sound to search for food. Crabs, clams, sea urchins and mussels are all prey to sea otters in this beautiful wilderness in southern Alaska.

Overhead, sea gulls and bald eagles fly gracefully through the air. In the distance a whale emerges above the water's surface. Surrounding Prince William Sound are the majestic jagged snow-capped Chugach (pronounced Chew-gatch) Mountains, and beyond, to the south, the Pacific Ocean. Rocks, some the size of boulders, carve out a rough shoreline.

There on the rocks, fifty yards from where the sea otter dove for food, Brenda Ballachey, a wildlife biologist, peers through a telescope mounted on a tripod. She and a colleague, who both work for the U.S. government's National Biological Service, take turns watching and recording what they see. They spend the day observing the otters.

Sea Otter pictureSea otters stay underwater anywhere from 40 seconds to four minutes foraging for food and then surface. They roll over on their backs and float in the water, balancing their prey on their chests while they eat.

Brenda looks very carefully to see what type of food the sea otter found and how large the prey is. She also records how many prey an otter finds during a feeding session, and how long it took the otter to locate the prey during each dive.

Brenda's observations are part of a project the government is conducting to determine the effects a huge oil spill eight years ago had on sea life in the Alaska waters.

(excerpted from the biography written by Mary Knudson, and the entire biography is available on the Sea Otter Biologist CD-ROM.)

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9909496.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and
do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).