Dr. Jennifer Burns is a Professor of biological sciences at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She came to Anchorage in 2000, following a gradual move north from Berkeley (undergraduate degree) California, with stops in Santa Cruz (Postdoctoral research), Seattle (MSc) and Fairbanks (PhD).
Her research focuses on understanding how the age and physiological status influences the diving and foraging abilities and behavior of marine mammals. She has conducted research on several Alaska species (northern fur seals, sea otters, harbor seals and Steller sea lions), but most of her recent work has taken place in Antarctica, where she, and her graduate students, have conducted studies on Weddell seals. This work has entailed spending long periods of time (Nov-Feb) living at McMurdo Station (a US research base), Antarctica, and traveling daily out on the sea ice to locate and collect data from adult females and their pups.
End products of her research include scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals, but have also included a children’s book, talks at local schools, and oral presentations to scientists, the public, and kids. In public presentations, she strives to convey the excitement of being a scientist who works in a remote location on questions that have–perhaps previously unappreciated–relevance to local concerns about marine ecosystem health and wildlife populations.
Currently, she is commuting between Anchorage and Washington DC, where she is serving as a program officer at the National Science Foundation.