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Abalone, kelp, and sea otters: history’s crucial role in understanding West Coast marine ecosystems

  • April 23, 2021
  • 2:00 PM (EDT)

History is crucial not only for deepening our knowledge of past and present ecosystems but also for envisioning their future. This is especially the case with marine ecosystems, where past misperception of baseline observations has led to cultural and scientific misunderstanding of fishery dynamics and of key trophic relationships, with profound social and ecological consequences.

This exciting interdisciplinary panel—drawing from environmental history, historical ecology, and marine biology—will present and discuss case histories of abalone, sea otters, kelp, and trophic cascades in both California and Oregon, revealing the importance of history in our understanding of West Coast marine life, especially with an eye to ecosystem recovery and regeneration.


Ann Vileisis, environmental historian, independent scholar, author of Abalone: the remarkable history and uncertain future of California’s iconic shellfish

Dr. Jenny Selgrath, NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary & CPC, ecologist and social scientist with publications in progress about the history of trophic cascades in California

Cameron LaFollette, Elakha Alliance (an NGO seeking to restore sea otters to Oregon’s coast), independent scholar with publications in progress about the history of sea otters in Oregon

Tom Calvanese, Oregon State University Port Orford Field Station, Marine Studies Initiative, Oregon Kelp Alliance, regenerative ecology practitioner working towards kelp restoration

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American Society for Environmental History

UIC Department of History - MC 198

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Chicago, IL  60607-7109