killer whale work        SIRF Necropsy Mar 29 2016 (13)       Alison Stimpert

The Sitka Sound Science Center, through funding from the National Science Foundation and the Skaggs Foundation, has established a Scientist in Residency Fellowship (SIRF) at the Center in Sitka. Since 2012, the SIRF program has awarded one-month mini-sabbaticals to preeminent scientists from across the country, allowing them undisturbed time that can be used in a variety of ways: data analysis, manuscript preparation, experimentation, collaboration, or simply thoughtful process. Expenses for travel, one month of lodging, per diem and a small honorarium are provided to each fellow. The scientists are given lab and office space and SSSC provides administrative support. The program also provides community engagement opportunities for scientists to share their research and to help improve science literacy in our community. Navigate to the SIRF drop-down menu to read about past Fellows and catch up on some of their fantastic outreach activities!

For more information, please contact SIRF Director Lauren Bell at or 907-747-8878 ext.9

Upcoming Fellows (2017-2018)

This year we received 35 exceptional applications for our limited number of fellowships, which made for a very competitive review process.         We are excited to announce the 2017-2018 SIRFs!

Nicholas Pyenson

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Nick is the curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed his postdoctoral work at the University of British Columbia. As a paleontologist, his scientific research focuses on how different kinds of four-limbed animals have repeatedly invaded oceans from land ancestry over the past 250 million years – an evolutionary cross-section of vertebrate life that includes sea turtles, seabirds, and especially marine mammals, such as whales. He has done scientific fieldwork on every continent, and lead over a dozen scientific expeditions during the last decade, with a strong focus on paleontological exploration, anatomical discovery, international mentorship, and 3D digitization for museum collections. You can read more about the research in his laboratory here. He can also be tracked on Twitter @PyensonLab.

(February 2017)


Nick's Sitka Activities

Cheryl Rosa

United States Arctic Research Commission

Dr. Cheryl Rosa is Deputy Director and Anchorage-based Alaska Director of the United States Arctic Research Commission (USARC), an independent federal agency of Presidential appointees that advises the White House and Congress on Arctic research matters and works with executive branch agencies to establish and execute a national Arctic research plan. The Commission also facilitates cooperation with local and state governments and recommends means for developing international scientific cooperation in the Arctic.

Dr. Rosa is trained as a Wildlife Veterinarian and Wildlife Biologist and has worked with subsistence communities on the North Slope and in the Russian Far East on a wide range of studies involving wildlife health and zoonotic disease, marine mammal stranding response, subsistence food safety and oil spill/offshore discharge research. She is a member of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee, as well as numerous other federal and non-federal boards and steering committees. Presently, she is involved in running USARC’s Alaska Rural Water and Sanitation Working Group, the Arctic Renewable Energy Working Group and the Arctic Mental and Behavioral Health Working Group. Dr. Rosa received a PhD in Biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Tufts University and a BS in Animal Science and a BS in Zoology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

(April 2017)

Cheryl's Sitka Activities

  • KCAW on-air visit during Raven Radio's spring fundraising drive
  • Natural History Seminar: "Rapid Arctic Change: why does it matter to you?"
  • Interview with Sitka Sentinel, Sitka's daily newspaper
  • Collaboration with Sitka Tribe of Alaska Environmental Sciences program
  • Presentation in Blatchley Middle School 8th grade classes on topic of stable isotopes and bioenergetics
  • "Walk through a whale" activity with elementary-age homeschool group
  • Participated in the Earth Day "Parade of the Species", hosted by Sitka Conservation Society and SSSC


Alan Verde

Maine Maritime Academy

Alan Verde is a Professor within the Corning School of Ocean Studies at Maine Maritime Academy (MMA).  His research interests include both tropical and temperate cnidarian (corals, anemones, jellyfish) endosymbiosis involving unicellular algae, both tropical and temperate sea cucumber physiology and ecology, anemonefish-anemone symbiosis, and temperate octopus biology and ecology.  Alan completed his Post-doctoral at Oregon State University, Ph.D. at Florida Institute of Technology, and both Master's and Bachelor’s of Science at Walla Walla University, Washington.  As the Diving Safety Officer, Alan oversees all aspects of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) - sponsored scientific diving program at MMA.

(May 2017)

David Hill

Oregon State University

David is a professor and has been at Oregon State University since 2010. Hailing from the midwest, he has a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering from UC Berkeley. David has broad interest in coastal hydrology and hydraulics and has been conducting field and modeling work in Alaska since the early 2000s. He currently serves on the Science Panel of the North Pacific Research Board and has previously served on the Publications Committee of the American Geophysical Union. Much of David’s current work centers on predicting the past, present, and future of the hydrologic cycle in coastal Alaska. He uses a variety of modeling tools to accomplish this and partners with NASA scientists to help improve the ability of satellites to remotely monitor the water budget in Alaska and other regions. His findings have been featured on Alaska Public Radio and several of his graduate students have received fellowships to carry out this work. Current research activities include studying the variability of Alaskan climate and how this affects the uncertainty in predictions of streamflow, and also linking coastal runoff predictions with simulations of nearshore oceanography. In addition to residing in Sitka for a portion of 2017, David will be at Canterbury University in Christchurch, New Zealand, on an Erskine Fellowship. There, he will spend his time avoiding earthquakes and enjoying the southern hemisphere summer. Outside of the office, David looks for mountains to hike, run, or ski up and down. You can learn more about David’s research and teaching here.

(Sept/Oct 2017)

Kate Stafford

University of Washington School of Oceanography

Dr Kate Stafford is a Principal Oceanographer at the Applied Physics Lab and affiliate Associate Professor in the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington in Seattle.  Kate has BAs in French Literature and Biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz and degrees in Wildlife Science (MS) and Oceanography (PhD) from Oregon State University. She is one of the founding members of the Scholarly Union for Bio-Physical Arctic Research and co-chair of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership Blue and Fin Whale Acoustics project. Before going to graduate school, she lived as a Fulbright scholar for a year in Paris studying Medieval French Literature. Kate's research focuses on using passive acoustic monitoring to examine migratory movements, geographic variation and physical drivers of marine mammals, particularly large whales. She has worked all over the world from the tropics to the poles, and is fortunate enough to have seen (and recorded) blue whales in every ocean in which they occur.  Kate’s current research focuses on the changing acoustic environment of the Arctic and how changes, from sea ice declines to increasing industrial human use, may be influencing subarctic and Arctic marine mammals. Kate is an Air Force brat who was born in Tachikawa, Japan, and hasn’t stopped traveling since.

(Oct/Nov 2017)

Andrew Von Duyke

North Slope Borough, Department of Wildlife Management

Andy is a wildlife biologist at the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management in Barrow, Alaska. His Bachelor’s degree is from Purdue University, where he studied mechanical design & biology. Early on, Andy designed everything from medical products to toys, and he has 15 patents. Jumping at a chance to winter-over at Palmer Station, Antarctica, Andy wore many hats (e.g., carpenter, electrician, welder); but found marine science the most gratifying. After his time on the ice, Andy earned a Master’s in conservation biology from the University of Minnesota. He has worked with wolves, moose, waterbirds, and shorebirds; has taught several college courses; and mentors wildlife biology undergrads. Currently, Andy leads ice-seal and polar bear research at the NSB-DWM. His research investigates the spatial ecology of ringed-, spotted-, and bearded-seals. He also studies non-invasive genetic sampling methods for polar bears and seals; and is deeply involved in polar bear policy. Andy is a member of the ESA Polar Bear Recovery Team, the Scientific Working Group of the US-Russia Bilateral Commission, and the Polar Bear Technical Committee. He was also a US delegate to the Polar Bear Range States and US-Russia Bilateral meetings. In his free time, Andy plays guitar, dogsleds, and enjoys outdoors.

(February 2018)

William Gilly

Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University

William F. Gilly received a BSE (Electrical Engineering, 1972) from Princeton and a Ph.D. (Physiology and Biophysics, 1978) from Washington University. He had additional training at Yale University, University of Pennsylvania and the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole. He has contributed to our basic understanding of electrical excitability in nerve and muscle cells in a wide range of organisms ranging from brittle-stars to mammals. Much of this work employed the giant axon system of the squid as an experimental model system for molecular and biophysical approaches.  Professor Gilly's current research program on squid concentrates on the behavior,  physiology and ecology of Dosidicus gigas, the jumbo or Humboldt squid. Fieldwork in the Gulf of California and off Monterey Bay employs electronic tagging and acoustic methods in order to track vertical and horizontal movements and to estimate biomass. In 2004, he served as Director and Chief Scientist of the Sea of Cortez Expedition and Education Project, an 8-week journey throughout Mexico's Sea of Cortez that retraced the legendary 1940 trip made by writer John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts. Gilly currently runs an engaging outreach program called Squids-4-kids that brings jumbo squid to primary school students. Find out more about his lab's research here.

(Spring 2018)