Dr. Andy Szabo, Director & Research Biologist
Andy began working with AWF in 2001 as a University of Victoria graduate student studying the behavior of female humpback whales and their calves. Over the years, Andy’s research focus broadened to include humpback foraging ecology, social behavior and communication. In 2011, he was awarded his doctorate in Wildlife Science from Oregon State University. Andy is a passionate educator. He has served as an adjunct professor of Marine Biology at the University of Alaska Southeast, is a courtesy faculty member in Oregon State University’s Marine Resources Management program, and participates each year in the Sitka Sound Science Center's Scientist in the Schools program. Andy’s knack for logistics together with his enthusiasm for whales sparked by a childhood whale watching trip makes the challenge of coordinating AWF’s growing number of research projects, educational programs, and conservation efforts, an enjoyable one. Andy oversees AWF's Center for Coastal Conservation in the summer and spends his winters in Sitka Alaska.
Dr. Fred Sharpe, Board Member & Research Biologist
Fred’s work with bubble-netting humpbacks has been a centerpiece of AWF’s research program since the organization’s inception n 1996. Tenacious in his research, he has spent more time in the field observing social behaviors of humpbacks than most could fathom, and in 2001 he was awarded a doctorate from Simon Fraser University for his efforts. Fred’s research has attracted some of AWF’s more eclectic collaborators, including the SETI Institute and National Geographic Society’s Crittercam team. When Fred takes a break from whale research, he can often be found wandering the hills and forests of the Pacific Northwest collecting plant specimens and recording bird calls. Fred's handiwork can be seen in his books Birding in the San Juan Islands and Wild Plants of the San Juan Islands.
Pieter Folkens, Board Member and Stranding Coordinator
Pieter is a naturalist, artist, publisher, and USCG-licensed captain. He has been involved in marine mammal research in Alaska since the late 70’s, and has been a tremendous support to AWF since it’s founding. Pieter’s San Francisco based business, A Higher Porpoise Design Group, is best known for marine mammal field guides and life-sized sculptures for museums and motion pictures. Pieter enjoys a diverse career, and whether he is designing cetaceans for films such as Life Aquatic, or describing new species of whales, his approach is unwaveringly rigorous and filled with good humor. In his spare time Pieter serves as an Emergency Medical First Responder, Wilderness Searcher, and Water Rescue Technician, and is a level 4 responder in the national large-whale stranding network.
Pat Sharpe, Board Member
The Sharpe family is large and has been generous in their support of AWF from the beginning. Fred’s brother Pat is no exception. Pat’s expertise as a 200-ton licensed boat captain and shipwright continues to help AWF meet the challenge of maintaining and safely operating our vessels in Southeast Alaska’s challenging marine environment. When not in Alaska captaining vessels, Pat owns his own business, Pat Sharpe Yacht Service, in Port Townsend, Washington.
Steven Morello, Board Member
Steve has had a long and colorful career in the natural history world. Steve worked for fifteen years as a shipboard 'whale guy' on NOAA research vessels along the western North Atlantic and as a naturalist on whale watching boats in Cape Cod. Later, Steve was one of the founding partners of Natural Habitat Adventures a wildlife adventure company. Over his more than twenty years at Natural Habitat he traveled extensively around the planet, guiding and photographing the wonders he experienced. Steve’s work has appeared in countless publications, including National Geographic Magazines and books, The New York Times and as a major contributor to the photo collection of the World Wildlife Fund. He is the author of The Traveling Nature Photographer, which has been acclaimed as a must have for anyone who travels, and is interested in photography. At present, Steve works as a naturalist photo instructor for Lindblad/National Geographic expeditions traveling around the world from Antarctica to Southeast Alaska.
Don Holmes, Board Member
Don Holmes has been a resident of Petersburg Alaska since 1981 and recently retired from a 30-year career teaching in the Petersburg school district. In the summer months Don works as a USCG licensed captain, running charters out of Petersburg on his vessel the m/v Juno. Don is a founding member and current board member of the Petersburg Marine Mammal Center. PMMC is a member of the Alaska Stranding Network and has participated in six successful whale disentanglements since its founding.
Elsa Sebastian, Communications & Development Coordinator
Elsa is a lifelong Alaskan, a USCG-licensed captain, and a commercial salmon troller who has strong ties to the Southeast Alaska fishing fleet. She earned a degree in Environmental Studies and Cinema and Media Arts from Wellesley College where she focused on studying media and documentary storytelling. Elsa has experience working with a number of international and local nonprofits, and currently serves on the board of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. Elsa spends her summers on her 38-foot troller chasing salmon up and down the coast of Southeast Alaska, and her winters in Sitka.
Cindy Moore, Graphic Designer
Cindy's lifelong love for a good story helped shape her own philosophy that designers are like storytellers who help perpetuate the flow of information, helping to impart a belief, message or experience through a visual expression. Since 2006, Cindy has been working as a graphic designer at the Library of Congress (because who wouldn’t want to work at a place filled with books!). She has a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Master’s in Science in Communications Design at Pratt Institute. Cindy lends her time and design expertise to help AWF communicate its mission graphically across digital and print mediums.
Johanna Anderson, Fluke Database Manager
Johanna's research experience reflects her diverse interests in the ecology and behavior of animals. Her study subjects have included sea otters, song birds, and baleen whales with research programs sponsored by the New England Aquarium, Point Reyes Bird Observatory, and the Marine Mammal Center. Johanna currently works at Humboldt State University studying seabirds along the Northern California coastline, and participates in seasonal research efforts with North Atlantic right whales in the Bay of Fundy. In 2011, Johanna was one of the first volunteers to respond to AWF’s request for assistance with the matching of humpback whale fluke identification images, and she now manages AWF’s online fluke matching program.
Courtney Hann, Graduate Fellow
Courtney is pursuing a Master's degree in Marine Resource Management at Oregon State University under the mentorship of Dr. Szabo. She is studying the effectiveness of using smart phone apps as a tool for citizen scientists to contribute observations to marine mammal research. Courtney spent the 2014 field season at AWF's research base distributing her citizen science application to regional boaters.
Michelle Fournet, Research Collaborator & Former Graduate Fellow
Michelle's relationship with humpback whales began in 2007 when she moved to Juneau, AK to work as a marine naturalist. During her time in Juneau she participated in a number of whale projects, and in 2011, with the help of her then-professor Dr. Andy Szabo, established a study on humpback whale communication. Eventually, she turned the study into a graduate project at Oregon State University with Dr. Szabo as her major advisor, and in 2014 was awarded her Master's degree from Oregon State. Michelle has continued to work with cetaceans and is now a PhD student at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon.