Welcome Dr. Nick Pyenson, Feb. Scientist in Residence!

News at the Sitka Sound Science Center, Recent SSSC News | January, 31, 2017 | by 0 Comments


Join the Sitka Sound Science Center staff and Board in welcoming marine mammal paleobiologist Dr. Nicholas Pyenson to Sitka as our first Scientist in Residency Fellow of 2017, here from January 27th to February 24th. Dr. Pyenson is the curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C. In this last month he was awarded a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Dr. Pyenson’s research focuses around the evolution and ecology of marine tetrapods such as whales, sea cows, and sea otters. In particular, he is interested in understanding the causes and mechanics of the major ecological events throughout geologic history where animal groups have transitioned from life on land to life in the ocean. Many of the mammals that Nick studies are important links in the food web of Southeast Alaska’s waters (or have been in the past).

During his Fellowship in Sitka, Nick will be sharing his research as well as his enthusiasm for integrating digital tools and art with paleoscience. Nick will join art classes at Blatchley Middle School and Mount Edgecumbe High School to discuss the importance of using multimedia interpretation and artistic representation of fossils to advance our understanding of now-extinct animals and ecosystems. He will also be visiting with a technology class at BMS and an after-school future problem solvers club at Sitka High to discuss the use of 3-D printing in his line of work.

As a recent Paleontological Society Distinguished Lecturer, Nick has extensive experience communicating his research to a variety of groups. Nick can be heard on the KCAW radio morning interview on February 6th at 8:10 am. He will be giving a public talk as part of the UAS Natural History Seminar series entitled “What does the deep history of whales tell us about the evolution of the oceans?” on Feb 9th, 7:30 pm UAS room 229. Dates and times for these events will be posted on the Sitka Sound Science Center website and the online KCAW community calendar.


The Sitka Sound Science Center, through funding from the National Science Foundation is once again hosting Scientist in Residency Fellowships (SIRF) here at our Center. The SIRF program brings preeminent scientists from across the country to Sitka for month long sabbaticals, allowing for undisturbed research free from the interruptions of their daily routine. The program provides scientists the opportunity to engage our town in science, sharing their research and career pathways, while also benefiting from the important local knowledge of residents. For more information or to schedule a SIRF event please contact Lauren Bell, SIRF Director, 907.747.8878 ext. 9