Sitka WhaleFest

Thursday, November 5 – Saturday, November 7, 2020


Produced by Sitka Sound Science Center

Sitka WhaleFest is a festival to celebrate marine life through science education, community and storytelling! Sitka WhaleFest raises awareness, educates, and creates enthusiasm for the marine environment. Our goal is to bring a deeper understanding of the marine environment to a diverse and inclusive audience in a way that all participants feel welcome and engaged.

Through a community-based festival we celebrate the marine world and our connection to it. We seek to convey that science is not just for scientists; it is a part of our everyday lives. The core of the festival is a unique science symposium for all that blends local knowledge and scientific inquiry of the rich marine environment of our oceans. Join Sitka WhaleFest virtually and celebrate with this unique tradition with our community!


The 2020 WhaleFest is donation only. If you are able to support our mission financially, we greatly appreciate any contribution.

For questions on registration please contact Alex Thorne


Ocean Connections: Culture and Communications

“Ocean Connections” will explore the many forms of culture and communication that are tied to the marine environment. Through the lens of Indigenous knowledge and scientific discovery, we will examine the web of interconnections that makes up the world’s oceans.


Deasy Lontoh

Deasy lives in Manokwari, West Papua and has been working with leatherback sea turtles nesting in the Bird’s Head peninsula of Papua since 2010, when she was a graduate student. In 2014 she received her master’s degree in marine science from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories located in Monterey Bay, California. For her thesis, she studied the productivity of Bird’s Head leatherback turtles that foraged in different regions of the Pacific Ocean.

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Hal Whitehead

Hal Whitehead is a Professor in the Department of Biology at Dalhousie University. He holds a BA in Mathematics (1972), Diploma in Mathematical Statistics (1977), and PhD in Zoology (1981) from Cambridge University in England. His research focuses on social organization and cultural transmission in the deep-water whales, but he also works on their ecology, population biology and conservation.

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Dan Olsen

Dan Olsen first experienced killer whales while teaching sailing for Outward Bound in the San Juan Islands in the late 90’s. In 2004, he began recording killer whale calls while working as a tour boat Captain in Seward, Alaska. He was intrigued and consumed by the ability to identify pods by calls alone. Dan became involved with the North Gulf Oceanic Society in 2006, and is now the Research Director, after pursuing a Masters from UA Fairbanks. His current focus involves projects including diet (poop!) sampling and year-round acoustic detection, in addition to the long-standing catalogue of identified individuals and family groups, behavior, and spatial distribution.

Heidi Harley

Dr. Heidi Harley is a comparative psychologist who studies how dolphins think. She began her dolphin life as a whale and dolphin trainer at Miami Seaquarium’s Flipper TV lagoon in the 1980s after growing to love the natural world on the coastal beaches of South Carolina. She was educated in philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and learned how to study animal thinking at the University of Hawaii Manoa in every marine mammal facility on the island of Oahu – Lou Herman’s dolphin lab on the beaches of Ala Moana, the Navy lab across from Gilligan’s Island in Kaneohe Bay, Sea Life Park at the foot of the Koolau Mountain Range. While on Oahu, Harley also mothered an orphaned sea lion complete with middle-of-the-night feedings and antiphonal calling (sea lion calves and their mothers call back and forth to each other).

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Maija Katak Lukin

Maija Katak Lukin, Inupiaq, was born in Kotzebue and raised on the shores of Cape Krusenstern National Monument at Sisualik.

Lukin attended Eastern Oregon University for Early Child Development, hoping to become an Inupiaq immersion teacher. She is the former Regional Communications Manager for NANA Regional Corporation, and Tribal Environmental Manager for Maniilaq Association, representing 12 tribes in northwest Alaska. She is also the former Mayor of the City of Kotzebue.

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*check back soon for schedule updates

**All displayed times are subject to Alaska timezone, GMT-8

Thursday, November 5th


11:00am – 11:15am Opening of Symposium and Festival 

11:15am – 1:00pm Symposium Presentations

Friday, November 6th


11:00am – 11:15am Opening Program

11:15am – 1:00pm Symposium Presentations

6:00pm – 7:30pm Maritime Grind

Saturday, November 7th


11:00am – 11:15am Opening Program

11:15am – 1:00pm Symposium Presentations

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