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Sitka WhaleFest Staff
In 2011, Lily Herwald accepted the position as Director of Sitka WhaleFest. Lily is a program planner who has successfully written over $15 million in funded proposals for municipalities, nonprofits and Alaska Native organizations. She led award-winning Alaska Public Broadcasting organizations as General Manager of KCAW-FM, Treasurer of Alaska Public Radio Network, and President of Alaska Public Broadcasting Inc. Lily’s evaluation work helps organizations gauge and improve their impact in serving people and communities. She is an experienced planner and is also skilled in the nuances of leading successful programs. We are very excited to have Lily as a part of the WhaleFest team!
Madison (Madi) Kosma
We are pleased to welcome Madi Kosma who is working with Sitka WhaleFest as a VISTA member. She works to build sustainable processes and systems that will serve the Festival for years to come. VISTA is an anti-poverty program created by Lyndon Johnson’s Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as the domestic version of Peace Corps. Initially, the program increased employment opportunities for conscientious people who felt they could contribute tangibly to the War on Poverty. Volunteers served in communities throughout the U.S., focusing on enriching educational programs and vocational training for the nation’s underprivileged classes.
Madison comes to us from Hawaii where she studied marine biology at the University of Hawaii. She is enthusiastic and energetic. She will also serve as coordinator for the Alaska Marine Science and Fisheries Career Coalition while at the Sitka Sound Science Center.
Steve Lewis is a marine mammal and wildlife biologist. He is also a teacher and a karst specialist who has worked in Southeast Alaska for most of the past 18 years. Since 2000, Steve has photographed humpback and killer whales for Jan Straley at the University of Alaska, Sitka, working mostly from a small skiff based out of his home in Tenakee Springs. In the fall of 2004, Steve took on the job of coordinating the Scientist in the Schools program for Sitka WhaleFest. This is no small job! Steve is responsible for developing and presenting preparatory lessons for scientists who then present programs on topics ranging from plankton to arctic marine mammals and more.
Jan Straley is an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Alaska Southeast and associated faculty at University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Jan has conducted research on humpback whales, with a focus on population dynamics in Alaskan waters since 1979. She began a study of killer whale predation upon Steller sea lions in 2000 and in 2003 expanded her research focus to study sperm, and recently killer, whale interactions with the longline fisheries. Jan’s educational programs provide mentoring opportunities for underrepresented Alaskan students in the sciences. These programs extend to building collaborations and relationships with our Hawaiian neighbors across the North Pacific. She is responsible for proposal writing and administration of several federal and state research grants. This includes the Scientists in Residency Fellowship or SIRF, a spinoff of the Scientist in the Schools program. SIRF is funded by the National Science Foundation and supports four scientists to live in Sitka for a month each year on mini sabbaticals. Jan is a founding board member of Sitka Whalefest and is now the science director. Jan and Dr. Michael Castellini develop the program theme for the annual Sitka WhaleFest science symposium each year and are responsible for inviting the speakers for both the Scientist in the Schools program and the weekend symposium. In 2012 Jan received the Ocean Leadership Award in Marine Science from the Alaska SeaLife Center.
Dr. Michael Castellini earned his PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1981. He has been a faculty member at the University of Alaska Fairbanks since 1989. He was Science Director for the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska from 1995-1999 and then the Director of the Institute of Marine Science at UAF from 2002-2005. Most recently, he was Associate Dean for the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and in spring 2010 was appointed interim Dean. He became Dean in 2011. Dr. Castellini’s research focuses on how marine mammals have adapted to life in the sea. Ever since his graduate work in San Diego, he has studied marine mammals around the world examining their biochemical, physiological and behavioral adaptations for deep and long duration diving, extended fasting, exercise physiology, hydrodynamics and even sleeping patterns. In Alaska, his work has extended into issues of population health (Why are marine mammal populations declining in some areas?), contaminant chemistry, reproductive chemistry and digestive physiology. Mike’s graduate students have worked from Alaska to Antarctica on these issues. He as written over 75 scientific papers on his work and is involved in local, state and National panels and committees dealing with policy issues related to marine mammals, ecosystem management and agency oversights. Mike and Jan Straley, WhaleFest Science Director, develop the program for the science symposium each year and discuss the overall theme. Together they are responsible for inviting the speakers for the Scientist in the Schools program and the weekend symposium. This collaboration between the University of Alaska campuses has helped forge and strengthen the connections among Alaskan marine scientists. His favorite location in Alaska is on the Forrester Island complex, about 70 miles southwest offshore of Ketchikan and as far south in the Alaska panhandle as you can get…the islands are covered in Steller sea lions, birds, berries and fortunately, no bears. Wonderful weeks spent there working on sea lions and exploring elfin-like old-growth forest…just amazing.