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Hughes' otter research in "Nature" captures international attention

Brent Hughes
Brent Hughes

Sonoma State University biology professor Brent Hughes’ research on sea otters and their role in protecting a California salt marsh was the cover article of “Nature” journal’s February 1 issue, called “Significant Otters.”

Against all odds, the biophysical features essential for making the Elkhorn Slough estuary a resilient coastal ecosystem are on the mend — in large part, the study appearing in “Nature” suggests, because of the sea otters’ insatiable appetite for plant-eating marsh crabs.

“When thinking about reintroducing sea otters outside their current range, salt marshes could be a very effective and affordable new tool for our conservation toolkit, benefitting both the sea otter and salt marsh,” lead author Hughes said of the study conducted over the course of a decade at Elkhorn Slough. 

The story was picked up by nearly 200 news outlets in the U.S. and eight other countries, among them US News, Barrons, The Washington Post, ABC, CBS, and Fox News. Hughes was interviewed for an episode of a PBS docuseries, “Changing Seas” that is scheduled to air in June 2024.


Read more from Insights / Spring 2024