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WhaleFest film festival opens door to science

Whale biologist Jan Straley is featured in the short film "Northern Wake" by Lou Douros.

Whale biologist Jan Straley is featured in the short film “Northern Wake” by Lou Douros.

Every scientist has a story about how he or she became interested in science. Maybe it was a teacher in grade school, or a visiting scientist, who first talked about the pursuit of knowledge as a way of life. This year’s Sitka WhaleFest opened with several short films about scientists that also try to make science accessible.

Kelli Burkinshaw, a visiting filmmaker from 360-North in Juneau, contributed a piece to the first-ever WhaleFest Film Festival. She sent us this story from Harrigan Centennial Hall.


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Remember that moment when you were first hooked on science? For me it was because of something very much like the kids in the schools of Sitka have been experiencing for the past few weeks. I was in 5th grade when my teacher, Mrs. Hughes, brought in cow’s eyeballs, brains and lungs for the class to dissect. I remember it was messy, kind of gross and well, just really cool.

See all the 2013 WhaleFest films on Prezi.

Whalefest is a wonderfully multi-disciplinary showing of all things whale. In addition to the science symposiums, there is music, art, food, drink, a fun run/walk, and new this year — a film festival.

Ellen Chenoweth, the curator of the first WhaleFest FilmFest, relayed what each filmmaker said hooked them on science as she introduced each film. The films were between 2 and 8 minutes long and topics ranged from research on salmon, steelheads, and giant pacific octopus to whale entanglement avoidance and necropsies.

When asked about how she came to the idea of making a film festival part of WhaleFest this year, Chenoweth had this to say.

“When you go to a scientific talk everybody loves to see videos, everybody loves to hear clips of sounds of animals and things like that, so it’s definitely becoming more common and more appreciated in presentations ‘cause scientists are people too and we enjoy being entertained and seeing things visually and hearing them as well as looking at graphs and being told what happened.”

And was it a tough sell to get it into the WhaleFest or how did that go?

“No, It was an easy sell, it was almost too easy, I said hey I have this idea and then Lisa said yes, and Maddison said yes, Jan said yes and then I had to actually make it happen”,

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