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Scientists coming to Sitka for research, residency

UAF Professor Shannon Atkinson is one of Scientist in Residency Fellowship winners. Atkinson was the lead scientist in the rearticulation of an orca skeleton, soon to be unveilled at the science center. (KCAW photo/Emily Bender)

Eight scientists from around the country will each spend a month in Sitka, beginning this summer.

The Sitka Sound Science Center is hosting the scientists as residency fellows, with funding from the National Science Foundation. The three year project is funded at about $150,000.

Included in the program are scientists from California State University, the Naval Postgraduate School, the University of Rhode Island, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

Tory O’Connell is operations director for the science center.

“All of them have a marine focus, all of them to one extent or another have worked already in the Gulf of Alaska, although their current research might be in other places,” O’Connell said.

For the scientists, the program means a month of study on their current research without the interruptions of their daily routines. But O’Connell says there are benefits for Sitka, too.

The scientists will offer programs to share their research and help improve ocean literacy in Sitka. O’Connell says Sitka might teach them a few things, too.

“One of the things we’re hoping will come of this program is that scientists are going to gain in their own research by talking to our local community here and hearing how we perceive the environment and the topics they’re studying,” she said.

O’Connell says being funded by the National Science Foundation is fairly prestigious. To get the funding, the center had to appoint a scientist to make sure the program has scientific integrity and achieves its goals. UAS associate marine biology professor Jan Straley will serve in that capacity.

The first science fellow arrives in late July, and the program runs through mid-summer of 2013. Click here to see who they are, where they’re from, and what they’re studying.



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