Blow Hard Scientists: How Whales Are Unlocking Arctic Secrets

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Date: Thursday May 30, 2013
Time: 07:00 PM-08:30 PM
Venue: Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, American Museum of Natural History
Moderator: Bill Ritter
Participants: Laura Allen, Kristin L. Laidre, Scott McVay, Sarah Robertson, Kate Stafford, Garth Stevenson

Researchers are racing to uncover the implications for the Arctic of rapidly vanishing polar ice – and they’re enlisting help from the very creatures that stand to gain the most from their discoveries: the Narwhal, Bowhead and Beluga whales, three of the most elusive species on Earth. Join a riveting discussion with explorers and scientists who are using daring new tactics to “recruit” these animals, featuring spectacular photographs, rare footage, and musical performances inspired by whale song. Program includes special private access to the museum’s exhibit, “Whales: Giants of the Deep.”

Presented in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History. Special exhibit access is available to ticket holders one hour prior to the program (6-7 pm).

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Moderator

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Anchor, Correspondent

Bill Ritter began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter, for the Los Angeles Times and others, before moving into television. His work in local and national television has taken him to every political convention since 1996. He has also anchored all election coverage for New York’s WABC and moderated candidate debates for New York Governor and Senator and New York City Mayor since 2000.

For the last 14 years, Ritter has co-anchored WABC-TV’s 11 PM newscast, in addition to working as a correspondent for ABC News’ 20/20. He added anchor duties for the 6 PM newscast in 2001, when legendary anchor Bill Beutel stepped down. Before joining the local ABC station, Ritter worked at ABC News as co-anchor of the Sunday edition of Good Morning America. As a correspondent for 20/20, he investigated the claims of James Van Praagh, the supposed psychic who says he can talk to the dead; he covered the Columbine High shootings and he investigated the phenomenon of patients waking up during surgery, among other stories.

Participants

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Producer

Laura Allen is the editorial producer of the American Museum of Natural History’s Science Bulletins program, which produces video and visualization for exhibition at the museum and other public spaces that highlights cutting-edge scientific research and issues.

With a degree in biology from Bates College, Allen has been writing and producing pieces about the natural sciences for 20 years. In 2012, she was the lead writer of the new interpretive panels for the restored dioramas in the museum’s historic Hall of North American Mammals. She has also been a regular contributor to Popular Science magazine. Her work for both independent and collaborative projects has earned awards from the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, the Association of Educational Publishers, the Science magazine Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge, and other competitions.

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Arctic Research Scientist

Kristin Laidre is a marine mammal ecologist at the University of Washington, Seattle working at the Polar Science Center and the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. She received her Ph.D. in 2003 from the University of Washington and worked as NSF-funded post-doctoral fellow at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources between 2004 and 2006. Kristin’s research is focused on studying the behavior, ecology, and population dynamics of Arctic marine mammals, primarily cetaceans and polar bears in Greenland. She is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Cetacean Specialist Group and Polar Bear Specialist Group. She has participated in over 30 field expeditions in Greenland and authored or co-authored over 70 peer-reviewed articles and 2 books on Arctic marine mammals.

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Explorer and Writer

Scott McVay is founding executive director of the Robert Sterling Clark and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundations, and the 16th president of the Chautauqua Institution. A graduate of Princeton, he discovered and documented the six-octave song of the Humpback whale and, with Roger Payne, published a cover article in Science. He led two expeditions to the Alaskan Arctic to study, record, and film the Bowhead whale. The first led to a cover article in American Scientist, the second to a prize-winning film documentary by the National Film Board of Canada. McVay is the recipient of numerous awards, including: the Albert Schweitzer medal, the Animal Welfare Institute; Joseph Wood Krutch medal, Humane Society of the United States; and an honorary doctorate from Middlebury. His board service includes: World Wildlife Fund, Smithsonian, Bat Conservation International, an now, Knowles Science Teaching Foundation. McVay has a new collection of poetry, Whales Sing and Other Exuberances.

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Producer, Director

Sarah Robertson is an independent wildlife and science documentary producer and director specializing in the Arctic for 20 years.

In contributing to films like Planet Earth, To the Arctic, the Hollywood feature film, Arctic Tale, National Geographic’s Great Migrations series and BBC’s Frozen Planet, she has made dozens of filming expeditions into the North. Polar bears have tried to enter her tent, she swam with harp seals and whales under a frozen ice canopy, and made friends with a walrus or two.

While in the North, Robertson has seen evidence of global climate change. Her recent focus is in finding ways to communicate these changes and shifts in what not long ago was considered an untouchable frontier. Now the Arctic is being transformed by warming, a rising thirst for oil and gas, and international tussles over shipping routes and seabed resources and is a hot bed for international political and economic disagreement. Her feature film, Arctic Tale was a first step in experimenting with the complexities of communicating effectually about how human impacts the environment and how wildlife and the environment respond. In 2007, Robertson was awarded the Lowell Thomas Award in recognition of excellence in exploring climate change.

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Oceanographer

Kate Stafford is a principal oceanographer in the applied physics laboratory at the University of Washington. Stafford’s research focuses on the use of passive acoustic monitoring to study geographic and seasonal variation of large whale species. Much of her research has focused on the geographic and seasonal occurrence of large whales based on sound production and the integration of these data with environmental variables to develop predictive models of large whale occurrence based on their environment. Currently, most of her work is based in polar regions including Davis Strait, Fram Strait, the Antarctic, and the Beaufort and Bering Seas.

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Musician

Garth Stevenson is a Brooklyn-based film composer and double bassist. Raised in the mountains of Western Canada, nature became his primary inspiration and the common thread between his life and music. He has released two full-length solo albums, informed by his experiences carrying his 150-year-old double bass to the woods, the beach, and the desert. His most recent and critically acclaimed release, “Flying,” is an homage to a life-changing trip to Antarctica where he played along side seals, millions of penguins, icebergs and had 12 whales approach the ship while imitating their calls on his bass. In 2012, he was invited to Tuva to perform with world-renowned throat singers of the Alash Ensemble, Huun-Huur Tu, and the Tuvan National Orchestra. His most recent film scores include: “The Red Knot,” “A Fierce Green Fire,” “Young Lakota,” “Elon + Emmanuelle,” and “On Meditation.”

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