File photo: A humpback whale rolls its pectoral fins out of the water after bubblenet-feeding near North Island. Michael Penn | Juneau Empire

File photo: A humpback whale rolls its pectoral fins out of the water after bubblenet-feeding near North Island. Michael Penn | Juneau Empire

WhaleFest turns focus to scientists

The 21st annual Sitka WhaleFest, hosted by the Sitka Sound Science Center (SSSC), will kick off Nov. 2 for a weekend of activities and learning. There will be a film screening, marine art reception, market and café, Maritime Grind show, a run to benefit SSSC, marine wildlife cruises, a concert and more. A big feature of WhaleFest is the three-day symposium of scientists and science advocates who will share their knowledge.

This year’s theme is “The Making-Of: Behind the Scenes of Science” and was selected in February by the symposium committee, said Sitka WhaleFest director and SSSC assistant director Rachel Klein. Scientists will speak about whales, but the focus will also be on the scientists themselves.

“So we were talking about ideas of how to have WhaleFest kind of focus on parts of research and science that most of the public would be unaware of… how scientists get inspired to conduct their research in the first place, and then what sort of findings do they have throughout their research, and what do they do after the fact when they’re done. We wanted our symposium to focus on parts of science that aren’t just lab coats and microscopes,” she said.

Each day of the symposium has its own theme, the first being ‘Serendipity.’

“Our scientists that day are going to be talking about those surprising or serendipitous moments that inspired them to want to study their topic. One speaker that day, Kate Stafford, is going to be speaking on her… serendipitous moment of discovery that bowhead whales are the jazz singers of the Arctic,” Klein said.

Stafford’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,” stated the website. Other speakers for that day are Christina Lockyer and her talk “Choosing My Own Path to Discovery,” and Macy Rae Kenworthy, a former U.S. Arctic Youth Ambassador, whose talk is “Standing on the Edge of Climate Change.”

The second day of the symposium theme is “Linking Up,” which focuses on unexpected connections that links to other marine research, Klein said. Thomas Royer will speak on “Southeast Alaska: Ancient Gateway to the Americas,” Colleen Duncan on “One World, One Health,” and Seth Danielson on “Ice Floes to Seals, Waves to Whales.” Rounding out the evening, Jacquelyn Gill, who was one of the original organizers of the international March for Science, held this year on April 22, or Earth Day, will speak on “Mice and Mammoths: A Paleoecologist’s Thoughts on Extinction, Survival, and Resilience.”

The third day of the symposium is “Action!,” which will address science policy and advocacy. Klein said this day asks the question: “Should scientists advocate for their research or let the science speak for itself?” Betsy Baker will present “How Marine Science Changed My Life: One Lawyer’s Story.” There will be a discussion panel called “Back off Man, I’m a Scientist!”

“The main purpose of Whalefest is that we really want to get the community and Alaskans and really anybody – we do have a lot of people coming from down south as well — engaged in science,” Klein said. “This festival is great opportunity to do that because not only do we have scientists from all over come to present their current research but we have all these other fun events that support the whole festival. It’s a great to have fun, chat with scientists, attend the lectures and really get engaged in science.”

On Thursday, there will be a free screening of the film “The Dark Side of the Ocean” by Rick Rosenthal. He will be in Norway during the festival but will Skype in for a Q&A. On Friday there will be the Maritime Grind, where there will be music, dancing, and a dessert contest (it costs $5 unless you bring a dessert, then your ticket is refunded). On Saturday, Allen Marine Tours will do $55 marine wildlife cruises. For a full listing of all the events associated with WhaleFest, go to sitkawhalefest.org.


• Clara Miller is the Capital City Weekly’s staff writer.


File photo: Recreational boaters watch two orca whales swim near Juneau in July 2011. Michael Penn | Juneau Empire

File photo: Recreational boaters watch two orca whales swim near Juneau in July 2011. Michael Penn | Juneau Empire

More in Neighbors

Fred LaPlante is the pastor at the Juneau Church of the Nazarene. (Photo courtesy of Fred LaPlante)
Living and Growing: Be a blessing

Years ago, I learned a great acronym, B.L.E.S.S. “B” stands for “Begin… Continue reading

Salad ingredients ready to assemble. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Mexican corn and bean salad

Several years ago, I ate at a wonderful Mexican restaurant in Los… Continue reading

The interior of the Pipeline Skate Park on Dec. 7, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Neighbors briefs

Join interactive design meeting for Jackie Renninger Park on May 21 CBJ… Continue reading

A new online dictionary features Lingít, X̱aad Kíl, Shm’algyack and English. (Mircea Brown / Courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute)
Neighbors: Sealaska Heritage Institute debuts multilingual online Alaska Native dictionary with audio

Platform includes resources for Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian languages.

Brent Merten is the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Juneau, a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. (Photo courtesy of Brent Merten)
Living and Growing: Your room is waiting

Thursday, May 9, is a very special day. Although most calendars don’t… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Living and Growing: Twisting Scripture to suit themselves

Ever wonder why so many different people say so many different things… Continue reading

The Ward Lake Recreation Area in the Tongass National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service photo)
Neighbors: Public input sought as Tongass begins revising 25-year-old forest plan

Initial phase focuses on listening, informing, and gathering feedback.

Sister Sadria Akina, Elder Tanner Christensen and Elder Bronson Forsberg, all missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, collect litter on April 22, 2023, in the Lemon Creek area. It was their first time partaking in Juneau’s communitywide cleanup. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file photo)
Neighbors briefs

Annual Litter Free citywide cleanup on Saturday Saturday is set for Litter… Continue reading

Tortilla beef casserole ready to serve. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Tortilla beef casserole for Cinco de Maya

When my kids were growing up their appetites were insatiable. Every night… Continue reading

An aging outhouse on the pier extending out from the fire station that’s purportedly the only public toilet in Tenakee Springs in August of 2022. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Gimme a Smile: Is it artificial intelligence or just automatic?

Our nation is obsessed with AI these days. Artificial intelligence is writing… Continue reading

Adam Bauer of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Bahá’ís of Juneau.
Living and Growing: Embracing progress while honoring Our roots

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that we are… Continue reading

Maj. Gina Halverson is co-leader of The Salvation Army Juneau Corps. (Robert DeBerry/The Salvation Army)
Living and Growing: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Ever have to say goodbye unexpectedly? A car accident, a drug overdose,… Continue reading