Scientists at Sea

Susan Chivers

Susan Chivers – Chief Scientist

Current home base: La Jolla, CA

Educational background: BS in Wildlife Management; PhD in Biology

Years studying cetaceans and seabirds: 27 so far and looking forward to more

Favorite ship food: BBQs, especially when there's fresh fish

Favorite port call: Punta Arenas, Chile, where I traveled to Torres del Paine National Park

Most amazing at-sea experience: Killer whales attacking sperm whales off central CA

Favorite shore-based activity: Being outside hiking or kayaking

I first sailed for NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in 1983 on the NOAA ship David Starr Jordan. I participate in field projects as often as I can because I love being able to observe animals in the wild. However, most of my time is spent in the office at a computer analyzing data. The research questions I am most interested in are those about how dolphins are uniquely adapted to the habitat they live in and how changes in their preferred habitat might impact them. This cruise is designed to collect data to ask these types of questions for common dolphins. I am excited to find out what we will learn.


Bob Pitman– Senior Fish Hugger

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Current home base: San Diego, CA

Educational background: Graduated from high school!

Years observing: ~35

Favorite ship food: Fresh fish

Favorite port call: San Diego, CA

Most unique sighting: The Jordan in Seattle

Favorite shore-based activity: Packing for a cruise

Mike Force Photo

Michael Force – Senior Seabird Observer

Hometown: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Current home base: Lake Country, BC, Canada

Educational background: B.A. Geography, University of British Columbia

Years seabirding: 35+

Favorite ship food: Fresh mahi on the barbi

Favorite port call: Mahe, Seychelles; Callao, Peru; Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Most unique sighting: Chatham Island Petrel off Peru; breaching Baird’s Beaked Whales off southern Baja California, Mexico

Favorite shore-based activity: birding, swimming, and traveling
I was born in Vancouver, BC, Canada at a time when the Crested Myna was a common bird in the family yard. A boyhood yearning to identify it ignited an everlasting passion for birds. A pelagic birding trip off Westport, Washington in 1974 introduced me to the charismatic birds of the open ocean, leaving me hopelessly addicted to seabirds ever since. My first NOAA cruise was aboard the NOAA ship McArthur for the Monitoring of Porpoise Stocks (MOPS) survey in 1990. Over the course of more than 3000 days at sea, I’ve ended up working as a seabird and marine mammal observer, oceanographic technician, and zooplankton picker on a variety of oceanographic and fisheries research vessels.

Rich Pagen Photo Rich Pagen – Marine Mammal Observer

Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Current home base: At sea

Educational background: M.S. Wildlife Biology, B.S. in Environmental Science

Current favorite pastime: Playing guitar

Years watching the sea: 6

Favorite ship food: Sushi, sushi and sushi

Favorite port call: San Francisco, CA & anywhere in Latin America

Favorite shore-based activity: Live music, watching the seasons unfold
I first stepped aboard a NOAA ship in 2003, gathering with the rest of the team to assemble the flying bridge for survey work. The bottom of one of my running shoes fell off within an hour; now my feet adorn themselves in Keen shoes. My main work has been the seabird survey aspect of these cruises, both on the west coast and the east coast. But my interests and expertise overlap many areas of ship surveys (including an involvement in the world-renowned Aft Deck Café)– I am particularly interested in biopsy sampling and photo ID of mammals, though turtle and shark tagging, and oceanography are welcome endeavors as well.

Richard Rowlett Photo Richard Rowlett – Senior Marine Mammal Observer

Hometown: Maryville, MO

Current home base: Seattle/Bellevue, WA

Educational background: B.S. Zoology, Geology (1970-Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, MO)

Current favorite pastime: Travel, birding, photography, rock collecting/polishing, and at home, yard and garden work

Years observing: 35+

Favorite ship food: Eggs benedict

Favorite port call: Manta, Ecuador; Panama City, Panama; Fremantle, Australia; Honolulu, HI

Most unique sighting: Bright *RED* southern right whale off South Africa 100% encrustrated with whale lice that came up along side the ship during a transit from Antarctica to Mauritius and I could literally reach over the side and scrape lice off with my hand

Favorite shore-based activity: Birding, gardening, rock collecting/polishing
I started as a recreational birder which evolved into a decade of organizing and running seabird and whale watching trips off the East Coast (Ocean City, MD and Cape Hatteras, NC) through the 1970’s while my ‘day job’ was with the Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian, Washington, DC). These first ever pioneering efforts into previously and amazingly ‘uncharted’ waters led to a significant data base simply through self teaching and growing experience, that I moved on to the first ever marine mammal, turtle, and seabird surveys in the NW Atlantic off US East Coast (University of Rhode Island project acronym CETAP) and from there these ‘dangling carrots’ just kept escalating and expanding to a decade (1980’s) of marine mammal surveys circumnavigating Antarctica (southern summers) and North Pacific Alaska/Aleutian/Bering Sea (northern summers) with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Seattle, WA, working with Dall’s porpoise and the Japanese high seas drift net salmon fishery. Foreign fisheries work filled some gaps in between until coming on with NOAA Fisheries and Southwest Fisheries Science Center (La Jolla, CA) in 1989 as a marine mammal observer in annual marine mammal surveys including Eastern Tropical Pacific, U.S. West Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii projects in addition to 15 seasons monitoring gray whale calf migration along the central California coast at an extraordinarily unique shore based study site, Pt. Piedras Blancas Light Station near San Simeon, CA.

Sophie Webb Photo Sophie Webb – Bird Observer

Hometown: Felton, CA

Educational background: B.A. Biology

Current favorite pastime: Watching birds, drawing and hiking

Years watchin' critters: As long as I can remember

Favorite ship food: Anything involving chocolate

Favorite shore-based activities: Travel, art, wildlife and hiking, and reading
I have been working as field biologist studying mostly birds, occasionally mammals, for, yikes. over 25 years! I first started observing for SWFSC in 2000 as a contractor although my first cruise on a NOAA ship was on the East Coast in 1983 working for Manomet Bird Observatory. Over the years I have worked as a contractor for a variety of other folks which has taken me many places from the Arctic to the Antarctic and many tropical countries in-between. Never far from me are my binoculars and drawing pad. The latter being part of the second half of my life. I am also an artist. I illustrate field guides, (mostly neotropical birds although currently I am working on a marine mammal guide) and write and illustrate children's books about various research projects I have worked on. Currently I am one of the directors of the non-profit Oikonos.


Candice Hall - Oceanographer

Hometown: Cape Town, South Africa

Current home base: San Diego, CA

Educational background: MSc in Physical Oceanography (University of Cape Town)

Years of playing on the ocean: Almost yearly since 1995

Favorite ship food: Fresh sashimi

Favorite port call: Isla del Coco, an island located off the shore of Costa Rica, with a population of schooling hammerhead sharks

Most unique sighting: Adult male Orca bow-riding the small boat a couple of meters off the David Starr Jordan in 2006

Favorite shore-based activity: Ironic, I know, but SCUBA diving!


Siri Hakala – Visiting Scientist
Hometown: Saint Paul, MN

Current home base: San Diego, CA

Educational background: M.A. in Psych/Marine Mammal Behavior & Biology from University of Hawaii; B.A. in Biology from University of Minnesota

Years observing/researching: 12

Favorite ship food: Cinnamon rolls, fresh fruit, fresh fish

Favorite port call: Pago Pago, American Samoa

Most unique sighting: Humpback whale lifting a boat out of the water on its head- from the perspective of the boat

Favorite shore-based activity: rock climbing, salsa dancing, traveling


Nick Kellar – Visiting Scientist

Hometown: Claremont, CA

Current home base: San Diego, CA

Educational background: Ph.D. Marine Biology, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Years observing/researching: 12

Favorite ship food: Fresh yellowfin sashimi

Favorite port call: Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Most unique sighting: Eight killer whales hunting 180 common dolphins

Favorite shore-based activity: Volleyball, gardening, and reading

Justin Garver

Justin Garver – Oceanographer 

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Current home base: San Diego, CA

Educational background: B.S. in Marine Biology from UC Santa Cruz

Years observing: 1

Favorite ship food: Fresh fish

Favorite port call: San Francisco, CA

Most unique sighting: Large pod of Sperm Whales off of Central California

Favorite shore-based activity: Surfing

Last modified: 12/24/2014