Tim Tinker


Dr. Tim Tinker is a Research Wildlife Biologist with the USGS Western Ecological Research Center and an adjunct Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. 

Since 1993, Dr. Tinker has been studying sea otter populations in California, Alaska, British Columbia and the Russian Commander Islands. He has studied sea otters and their roles as top predators in near-shore ecosystems throughout Alaska, and served as co-investigator into causes of the population decline in SW Alaska through the 1990’s. Currently, he is the project leader for Federal research on sea otters in California, and the head of a multiagency study investigating the factors limiting the recovery of this threatened sub-species.

Dr. Tinker's research focuses on the ecology of coastal marine communities, particularly the suite of direct and indirect interactions between sea otters and other species in the near-shore environment. He uses this habitat as a model system to elucidate the influence of high-trophic-level consumers on the organization of the communities within which they live.  

Other related research topics include sea otter foraging ecology, individual behavioral strategies, spatial use and habitat selection, reproductive behavior and mating systems, life history tactics, and the use of population models to inform management and conservation.


  • Behavior of carnivores and social mammals
  • Behavioral ecology of vertebrates
  • Community ecology
  • Marine mammal ecology
  • Population viability models
  • Population biology


  • PhD, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz 2004
  • M.Sc., Zoology and Ecology, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada 1993
  • B.Sc., Wildlife Biology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada 1990


  • Member of Southwest Alaska Sea Otter Recovery Team (SWAKSORT) convened by US FWS
  • Member of the Ecological Society of America, 2005-2009
  • Member of The Society for Marine Mammalogy, 1991-2009


  • Research Scientist, US Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, 2008 - Present
  • Adjunct Professor, UC Santa Cruz, 2008 - Present
  • Assistant Research Biologist, UC Santa Cruz, 2007-2008
  • Post-doctoral researcher, UC Santa Cruz, 2004-2007