Spotlight: Joshua Cutler

Research Scientist

Joshua CutlerJoshua Cutler has worked with NOAA since 2012 and joined JISAO in November 2015 as a Research Scientist in the Alaska Ecosystems Program (AEP) with the NOAA Marine Mammal Lab, located in the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. He develops data systems and collects field data for AEP. “I am bringing all of the Steller sea lion and northern fur seal project data together for the first time, facilitating the ability of researchers to connect data points across multiple projects, which will help answer some questions and create new questions about the life-histories and population of these species,” he explains. “My position is never boring.” 

Joshua grew up in a small town in northern Connecticut, near the Berkshire Mountains, where he developed a love for the wilderness. Without knowing what career path he would take, he decided marine biology was a neat undergraduate major at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth. After taking several seasonal jobs working in various fields during college, Joshua found marine mammal research to be the most fascinating. However, right out of college he found himself working with NOAA fisheries, first as a fisheries observer, and then as a technician and watch chief on the Ecosystems Survey Branch cruises out of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. 

Killing fish for a living was not a good career path for Joshua, so he went to graduate school at Sonoma State University in California to conduct studies on northern elephant seal foraging ecology with Dr. Dan Crocker. There, he deployed ARGOS satellite tags on seals and used new and previously-deployed satellite tag data to model foraging success with geo-location, dive statistics, and other measurable behaviors. He even got to conduct physiological studies on the elephant seals and help capture harbor seals. He also learned some computer programming languages and skills needed for managing and querying large data sets.

Joshua climbing in AlaskaJoshua got involved with AEP in the summer of 2010. It is hard to make money as a graduate student so Joshua became a field observer for the Steller sea lion resighting project on Ugamak Island in Alaska (pictured at the right). He enjoyed living for seven weeks on a remote island in the tundra so much that he went back for a second season. By then, AEP was looking for a full time data systems specialist so Joshua offered his programming skills full time. Now, Joshua works behind a desk most of the year but still gets opportunities to play field biologist in the Alaska wilderness for the Steller sea lion aerial survey, the northern fur seal population and abundance surveys, and unmanned aerial surveys. “I enjoy working on these projects because the species are all ecologically important and the research is very high-impact,” he says.

Joshua is an outdoor enthusiast so when he’s not in the office he spends much of his free time backpacking, biking, and rock climbing. He’s currently planning a dream vacation to go climbing in Thailand and he jokes that nothing makes him happier than “having a tallboy of Rainier after a long day on the crag.” We hope they serve Rainier in Thailand, Joshua!