Story last updated at 5/29/2013 - 2:07 pm
SITKA - University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) Sitka Campus Associate Professor of Marine Biology Jan Straley became the first Sitka resident in 18 years to be honored with the University of Alaska's Meritorious Service Award during the UAS Sitka Campus graduation ceremony on May 3.
Straley is the first person from Sitka to be honored with the award since 1995. The award is given by the University of Alaska Board of Regents and honors "evidence of significant public, academic, volunteer or philanthropic service to the MAU (major administrative unit) or one of its community campuses, or to an Alaska community."
"I am truly honored and humbled by this award presented to me by the Board of Regents," Straley said. The letters of support were so glowing it was hard to realize that they were talking about me. It seems that when you work with great colleagues who are equally passionate about what they do it creates an enjoyable and productive team effort. I think of this award belonging to that team of researchers and educators, including my students and my incredibly supportive and creative family."
Straley holds a bachelor of science degree in fisheries from the University of Washington and a master of science degree in biological oceanography from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She didn't originally start out to study whales, but a large shoal of humpback whales was outside the Straley cabin in Seymour Canal in 1979 when she was studying non-migratory Canada geese. That launched a 30-plus-year career of following whales across Alaska. She has studied population dynamics, feeding ecology, human interactions and the social structure of large whales. Her research includes working with the fishing industry to minimize interactions between sperm and killer whales and Alaska longline fisheries.
Straley has been with the UAS Sitka Campus since 1994, and also serves as associated faculty with UAF. She works with the National Park Service's humpback whale monitoring program at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, and studies humpback whale foraging ecology with NOAA's Auke Bay Laboratory in Juneau.
A strong advocate for marine science education, Straley was a founder and served as board president of Sitka WhaleFest until 2007, when she became science director. With Sitka WhaleFest, she oversaw the successful K-12 "Scientist in the Schools" experimental teaching program and the weekend science symposium where the latest findings of the North Pacific Marine Research are presented. She also was a founding director, and now is an advisor, to the Sitka Sound Science Center.
Her educational programs include mentoring opportunities for underrepresented Alaskan students in the sciences. These programs include building collaborations and relationships with students living in remote communities in coastal Alaska and with our Hawaiian neighbors across the North Pacific through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian (ANNH) Education Program. In 2012, Straley received the Ocean Leadership Award in Marine Science from the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. She lives in Sitka with her husband John, a novelist, poet and criminal investigator. Their son, Finn, is a Whitman College graduate in history with a passion for stand-up comedy (he currently lives in Los Angeles).
Previous Meritorious Service Award honorees from Sitka include Isabella Brady (1995), Gil Truitt (1994) and Lloyd Hames (1990). In the 1980s, when the UAS Sitka Campus was known as Islands Community College, David Knapp (1983), Michael Morrin (1984), Sen. Richard Eliason (1985) and Theresa Holt (1987) received the honor.
For more information about the UAS Sitka Campus, call 907-747-7700 or 800-478-6653, or go to www.uas.alaska.edu/sitka.