PUBLISHED: 7:00 PM on Wednesday, November 5, 2008
WhaleFest events include symposium, variety show
SITKA - Scientific research becomes a community affair during Sitka WhaleFest. For three days, researchers, students and community members gather to discuss current research on some of the most beloved and fascinating subjects around: marine mammals.

The three-day symposium, held Nov. 7-9, draws researchers from across Alaska and the rest of the West Coast. This year's general symposium theme is "movements and migrations," with a different theme to each afternoon's three presentations.

Friday's presentations will look at challenges of migrations for seals, sea lions, gray whales and shearwaters. Saturday's program will focus on how marine mammals are responding to changes in the Arctic. The symposium with conclude Sunday with discussions of how migrating seals and whales adapt to their surroundings.

The symposium lasts three hours each afternoon, leaving plenty of time to enjoy Sitka and other WhaleFest activities. Every day the student marine art show and WhaleFest market and café will be open to the public. Whale-watching tours on Allen Marine catamarans will depart Saturday and Sunday mornings with researchers on board to discuss the wildlife in Sitka Sound.

Everyone is invited to the Maritime Monthly Grind variety show Friday night, featuring local talent. Come early - in the past years, the 500 seats have all filled up. The weekend will end with sea chanteys by acclaimed chanteyman Don Sinetti, who is traveling from the East Coast once again to share his songs and stories with Sitka.

The schedule for WhaleFest, subject to change, is as follows. All events are held at Harrigan Centennial Hall unless otherwise noted.

Friday, Nov. 7

• 11am - 2pm: Registration/ information table open

• 11am - 6pm: Marine art show

• 11am-6pm: The Market at WhaleFest & The Market Café; silent auction

• 12:45 - 1pm: Symposium welcome

• 1 - 4pm: Symposium, "From here to there: the amazing migrations of marine mammals and sea birds"

• 1 - 1:45pm: Carey Kuhn, Ph.D., "Flexible foraging behavior: how fur seals and sea lions respond to environmental variation"

• 2 - 2:45pm: Craig Matkin, "Interception and predation of migrating gray whales by aggregations of killer whales in Western Alaska: the risk of predictable migratory pathways"

• 3 - 3:45pm: Scott Shaffer, Ph.D, "Have wings will travel: around the Pacific Ocean with migrating sooty shearwaters"

• 7:30pm: Friday night concert - the Maritime Monthly Grind

Saturday, Nov. 8

• 9am: Registration for the WhaleFest 10K Run/5K Walk (Whale Park)

• 10am: WhaleFest 10K Run/5K Walk (Whale Park)

• 9 - 11:30am: Whale watching tour (proceeds support WhaleFest)

• 9am - 5:30pm: The Market at WhaleFest & The Market Café; silent auction

• 10am - 5pm: Marine art show

• 11:30am - 4pm: Registration/ information table open

• 1 - 4pm: Symposium, "Marine mammals and the changing Arctic" (underwritten in part by the Walt Cunningham Education Fund)

• 1 - 1:45pm: Craig George, "A tough trip through (frozen) paradise"

• 2 - 2:45pm: Bruce Mate, Ph.D., "The changing range and role of gray whales"

• 3 - 3:45pm: Robert Suydam, "Movement and distribution of beluga whales with a focus on the eastern Chukchi Sea stock"

• 6:30pm: Banquet with keynote speaker, Russ Andrews, Ph.D., "Using high-tech gizmos to spy on seals and whales in Alaska: an attempt to understand how marine mammals cope with changing environments"

Sunday, Nov. 9

• 9 -11:30am: Whale watching tour (proceeds support WhaleFest)

• 10 - 2pm: Registration/information table open

• 11 - 4:30 p.m.: The Market at WhaleFest & The Market Café; silent auction

• 11 - 4pm: Marine art show

• 1 - 4pm: Symposium, "Fitting in: how migrating seals and whales adapt to their surroundings"

• 1 - 1:45pm: Alison Banks, "Northern fur seal seasonal movements and foraging strategies: consequences to females and their pups"

• 2 - 2:45pm: Dan Crocker, Ph.D., "Foraging ecology of northern elephant seals: physiology, energetics and behavior"

• 3 - 3:45pm: Mike Castellini, Ph.D., "A several thousand mile migration for you without eating would be tough... but is it hard for a whale or a seal?"

• 4:30 - 5:30pm: Sea chantey concert with Don Sineti, chanteyman extraordinaire

For speaker biographies and recommended readings, visit For more information or to register call (907) 747-7964 or visit