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Seth Newsome (Postdoctoral Associate, 2006-2009) in The Washington Post

Former Geophysical Laboratory Postdoctoral Associate, Seth Newsome is among a group of scientists participating in an expedition to study sea otters along coastal habitats in North America.

They say this once near-extinct mammal may hold the key to understanding how human activity and environmental changes have affected coastal environments spanning from California to Canada, and north to Alaska.

Newsome, now a researcher at the University of Wyoming, will examine the stable isotopes of the otters' whiskers as chemical tracers to shed light on the history of this dynamically changing ecosystem. Using mass spectrometers, they are able to detail the ratios of different types of isotopes. He will also analyze fish muscle collected from the expedition. 

Otters were selected because they are particularly vulnerable to human activity in the wild. As the smallest marine mammals without insulating body fat, they must take care of their dense fur and consume enormous amounts of food to keep warm. They are found in coastal waters where the sea is shallow enough for them to dive for prey. The team hopes to understand differences in the growth of the species’ populations.

For more information, please see http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/otters-reveal-clues-to-coastal-health/2011/05/24/AGNKZLEH_story.html