ASLC honors ocean researchers, communicators

McCammon wins lifetime achievement award; ocean ambassador award goes to Ulmer

Molly McCammon, of the Alaska Ocean Observing System, and Fran Ulmer, chairman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, are among the winners of the Alaska SeaLife Center’s honorees this year for contributions to the state’s marine resources.

Also being honored are Switgard Duesterloh, creator of the Ocean Science Discovery Lab in Kodiak, Carin Ashjian, an associate researcher with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee, and Alaska Wildland Adventures

Their awards were to be presented at the Alaska Marine Gala on Feb. 8 at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage, but also announced during the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage, in late January.

McCammon will receive the prestigious Walter J. and Ermalee Hickel Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her exceptional contributions to management of Alaska’s coastal and ocean resources for over 20 years. McCammon’s career has included serving as executive director of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council for nine years, where she managed the largest research and monitoring program in the state.

Ulmer is being honored with the ASLC’s Ocean Ambassador Award for outstanding contributions in promoting public awareness and appreciation of Alaska’s oceans, coasts and marine ecosystems. Her legacy of public service spans over 40 years and is still going strong, including lectures internationally about the rapid changes happening in the arctic and while conservation of oceans is essential to everyone’s wellbeing. Ulmer is also a visiting professor at Stanford and a senior fellow at Harvard.

Duesterloh will receive the Marine Science Outreach Award for her contribution to ocean literacy through formal or informal education and other communications, Duesterloh has run programs for students grades 3-12 and science summer camps in Kodiak Island villages and the city of Kodiak. She also works tirelessly to raise awareness of problems associated with plastic pollution and is organizing a spring Whale Festival at Kodiak.


Ashjian and the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee are the two recipients of this year’s Marine Research Award for scientists acknowledged by peers to have made an original breakthrough contribution of scientific knowledge about Alaska’s oceans. Ashjian has made significant insights to marine research and advanced leadership in shaping marine science programs in the Arctic and Bering Sea for the past two decades. Her expertise in oceanography, zooplankton ecology and biological-physical interactions focusing on Arctic and sub-Arctic regions has advanced understanding of these systems, and how lower trophic levels respond to the physical environment and connect to higher trophic levels.

The Alaska Beluga Whale Committee serves as the co-management partner with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association for four stocks of belugas in western and northern Alaska.

The committee promotes conservation and sustainable management of beluga whales through collaboration of Alaska Native subsistence hunters, biologists and agency managers.

Alaska Wildland Adventures is being honored with the Stewardship and Sustainability award as an industry leader demonstrating the highest commitment to sustainability of ocean resources. Since 1977, under the leadership of Kirk Hoessle, the company has operated natural history tours exclusively in Alaska, providing interactive experiences in wild Alaska.

The ASLC, in Seward, is a private, non-profit research institution and public aquarium, with wildlife rescue and education programs, sharing its scientific knowledge to promote stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems. The ASLC is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. More about the center is online at