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NGOS team

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Craig Matkin, Founder and Executive Director

Craig started our program in the 1980s, at a time when killer whale populations in Alaska were poorly understood.  He completed his M.S. in Zoology in 1980 at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and has worked with marine mammals for 40 years.  Craig was actively monitoring the killer population when the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill severely impacted two pods in 1989.  When not photographing killer whales in Alaska, he is swimming with their smaller cousins in Hawaii.

Eva Saulitis, in memoriam

Eva worked alongside Craig for many years, in research and in life.  She performed her Master's thesis investigating the acoustic behavior of the Chugach Transients (AT1s) through the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  Eva has been published in scientific journals, but also through literature.  Her book 'Into Great Silence' follows the plight of the Chugach transients toward extinction after the Exxon Valdez oil spill as Eva herself was battling cancer.  We miss you, Eva.

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Dr John Durban, Senior Scientist

John is a population ecologist who has conducted research on marine mammals for more than 25 years to support conservation in the U.S. and overseas. John began researching Southern Resident killer whales off Washington State as a teenager, focusing on population dynamics for his Ph.D. studies at the University of Aberdeen (UK), before extending his killer whale research to Alaska and Antarctica during 17 years of working with NOAA’s Alaska and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers. John is now an Associate Professor with the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, and he continues his research on killer whales in Alaska as an associate Senior Scientist with NGOS. John’s primary research involves combining photographic mark-recapture for population assessment with drone-derived photogrammetry to monitor individual whale health. 

  John’s publications:  

Hannah Myers, Postdoctoral Scholar

Hannah leads NGOS' acoustics program. She is currently a postdoc at Oregon State University studying the distribution and residency patterns of endangered southern resident killer whales and overlap with prey resources and human activity. Hannah completed a PhD at the University of Alaska Fairbanks focused on the seasonal distribution and residency, calling rates, and year-round acoustic abundance of southern Alaska resident, Gulf of Alaska transient, and AT1 transient killer whales in the Gulf of Alaska. She was previously a Guest Investigator at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution studying fishing gear entanglements of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. . 


Dan Olsen, Field Biologist

Dan began recording killer whales and studying their dialects in 2004 while working as a tour boat captain in Seward, Alaska.  He has been involved with NGOS in various capacities since 2006, and has mainly been researching acoustics, behavior, spatial use, and diet composition.  He completed his Masters in Fisheries Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2017.  Dan also works as a naturalist in the Antarctic and Arctic.


Kyra Wagner, Board President

Kyra Wagner is known for her organizing skills and motivational personality. She is a community organizer in Homer, AK, and works on issues ranging from food security to energy efficiency. She has assisted NGOS field efforts as a steadfast volunteer on many occasions and has captured some important observations with her quick touch with the digital cameras.


Eric Knudtson, Board Vice-President

Eric Knudtson works as an instructional coach in village schools on Kachemak Bay. He has also worked as a biologist and computer programmer.

Dr. Debbie Boege-Tobin, Board treasurer/secretary

Dr. Tobin is a Professor of Biology at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula College, Kachemak Bay campus, and specializes in marine mammals. She developed a university program in Homer called Semester by the Bay, with students from around the country.  Her work outside the classroom is centered in Kachemak Bay.

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Heather Brinster, admin assistant

Heather is a lifelong Alaskan. Her heritage includes being 1/8 Gwich’in Athabascan. After earning an economics degree from the University of Alaska – Fairbanks, Heather moved to Homer. Over the past 30 years, Heather has worked as a clam digger, on fishing boats, land surveying, fish plant manager, peony farmer, and land appraiser for the State of Alaska. And along the way, while raising four boys, also squeezing in as much of the bounty of Alaska as she can, skiing, fishing, camping, hiking, sailing, and caring for her two shepherds. Heather brings her passion for meaningful work that benefits the community to her position as Finance Director. Heather also works as the accounting and grants manager at Kachemak Heritage Land Trust.

Dr. Kim Parsons

Kim received her Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen (UK) in 2002. She has worked on the behavioral and molecular ecology of a number of cetacean and pinniped species both locally and internationally. Kim is currently working with NGOS and the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NOAA Fisheries) on the population genetic structure of killer whales in the North Pacific, and diet revealed by prey DNA in fecal samples.


Graeme Ellis

Graeme spent over 30 years working with killer whales in British Columbia, mostly as a marine mammal technician at the Pacific Biological Station, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Nanaimo, B.C.  He continues to work with most of our fine detail photo ID work.  In between, his sailboat and the BC coast lure him to sea.

Dr. Manuel Castellote

Manolo Castellote is a bioacoustician from Spain who has worked for NGOS and the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NOAA Fisheries).  His research is focused on the behavioral ecology of cetaceans using acoustic techniques. He is also interested in the effect of anthropogenic noise in cetacean behavior and is involved in the development of noise regulations both in Europe and the USA.


David Lynn Grimes

David has been one of our field assistants since the mid-1980's, is also known fondly as the NGOS bard. He is a musician, songwriter and storyteller, a wilderness river guide, environmental activist and former commercial fisherman. David was instrumental in the citizens' response to the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, working to create safer tanker traffic, citizen's oversight of the oil industry, and the protection of rainforest habitat for fish and wildlife. An adopted member of the Eyak Indian tribe, David's Eyak name YaxidiliSayaxinh translates as "the Thinker."

Cy St-Amand

Cy has helped collect photographs and audio recordings for us in some very remote places.  He has helped with film support and is a vessel systems guru. Operator of RV Right Whale and RV Crows Nest based in Kodiak.  Find him on Facebook: Otter Works Alaska


Dena Matkin


Dena is a naturalist at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. She has studied killer whales in southeastern Alaska since 1987 and anchors NGOS efforts in that region.

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