Mike Castellini ~ Polar Visionary

Mike Castellini
Dr. Mike Castellini is the Dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and is the Lead Principle Investigator for COSEE Alaska. His research has focused on different aspects of marine mammal biology and medicine, including the population health of marine mammals, harbor seal physiology, and diving physiology.

Mike arrived in Alaska in 1989 as the "new marine mammal guy" and immediately began to work on ways to get better access to the marine mammals he wanted to study. Eventually this pursuit led to the establishment of the Alaska SeaLife Center, which opened in 1998 and today is a COSEE Alaska partner.

Perhaps more than in most locales, Mike's research and outreach interests and activities are defined by where he lives and works. Alaska has unique assets and challenges, all of which are related to natural resources. Natural resources define the state's economy, and the University gets funding to explore issues that affect these resources. Many of the biologists who work for the State were trained in Mike's lab.

"If you know your field well enough you should be able to explain it to anyone"
By definition, Alaskans are very connected to nature and thus have a keen interest in science. "In Alaska research is relevant," says Mike. "Alaskans have trust in the scientific process." There is a tradition of communication between scientists, managers and fishermen. As a result, outreach events are often treated with the enthusiasm that elsewhere might be reserved for Hollywood movies. To satisfy this enthusiasm, the University has 70 distance learning hubs and COSEE Alaska collaborates with partners up and down the 44,000 mile coastline. "Alaska is big place geographically and a small place personally," says Mike, "which helps COSEE."

Alaska is where climate change is being seen first – it's the proverbial canary in the coal mine. And Alaska is populated with people who are the most affected by climate change, native people whose daily lives are affected by slight changes in coastal ecosystems. Fortunately, Alaska has scientists like Michael Castellini helping to ensure that science gets accurately translated to those who need it most.

Photographs and images for Mike's pages courtesy of Mike Castellini, Steve Trumble, Tami Mau, and COSEE Alaska. Photos of marine mammals were taken under Marine Mammal Protection Act permits to M.A. Castellini.