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Otter Spotters: A Crash Course in Urban River Otters

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Event description

When the River Otter Ecology Project in California —a beacon of conservation and community science—had the chance to expand its wings across America, they chose two rivers that pulse with life and promise. One of those rivers? Our very own Elizabeth River!

Join otter ecologist and River Otter Ecology Project co-founder Megan Isadore at the Elizabeth River Project's new Ryan Resilience Lab for a crash course on the natural history of river otters, how to find them, and their importance as an indicator species of healthy rivers. 

“We’re very interested in urban river otters. Their presence reminds us that wildlife can thrive in close proximity with densely populous areas, given the right circumstances,” Isadore said of her choice of the Elizabeth.  “A big predator coming back like that, on an urban river, is fabulous.”  

Ever wondered how to spot an otter? Megan will spill the secrets. Tracks, scat, and the art of otter spotting—it’s all part of the crash course!

The program will be a partnership of the Elizabeth River Project, the River Otter Ecology Project and FieldScope.

Come early for an optional tour of the Ryan Resilience Lab at 1:00pm.

Part of The Ryan Resilience Series
Made Possible by Virginia Natural Gas


THE MISSION of the non-profit Elizabeth River Project seemed almost impossible when we started 30 years ago: To turn around the health of an urban river at the time presumed dead, with high rates of cancer in fish. These decades later, fishermen flock to the Elizabeth River, also known as the military and commercial harbor of Norfolk, VA, for some of the best fishing in the region. Otters and dolphin are back. The 2023 scorecard by area scientists for the first time gives the river several grades of “A” for overall water quality. More than 6,500 residents, 56 schools and 148 businesses participate with us as “River Stars,” voluntarily doing their part to reduce pollution and restore wildlife habitat.

However, an existential threat looms over the health of this ecosystem and its communities. Norfolk is experiencing the highest rate of relative sea level rise on the East Coast. As the river overflows normal bounds, reaching far into city blocks and then receding, it loads the Elizabeth with a toxic soup. Also unraveling the Elizabeth River Project’s pioneer progress with restoring wetlands, the rising seas are predicted to drown as much as 80 percent of this river’s marshes over the next 50 to 70 years.

Virginia Natural Gas with its signature gift for 2023 will make possible the first programming for our nationally important answer, the Ryan Resilience Lab, 4610 Colley Avenue, Norfolk, VA. Many coastal communities experience our challenges. The Ryan Lab will present a global model for how to live, work and play in the urban flood plain as sea levels rise. While final construction is still underway for the grounds and some of the green systems, we can’t wait to start programs. With special thanks to Virginia Natural Gas, we’re launching the Ryan Resilience Series in November 2023 with some of the freshest programming on sea level resilience anywhere.

You’re invited! Presenting present and future challenges and solutions for humans and the ecosystem as sea levels rise. Fresh, inspiring, thought-provoking programs in art, history and science, with a priority for engaging marginalized communities. All programs include optional, provocative tours of the Ryan Lab, designed with resilient technologies replicable to the public.

For more information on the Ryan Resilience Series, please contact Jamie Melvin, jmelvin@elizabethriver.org, 757-399-7487


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