Spotlight: Erin Richmond
Erin has worked for NOAA since 2008 and joined JISAO in October of 2015 as a Research Scientist in the Polar Ecosystems Program with the Marine Mammal Lab at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. Erin conducts research on pinnipeds in Alaskan waters, including harbor seals and four species of ice-associated seals (ringed, bearded, spotted, and ribbon seals). Most of the research is conducted from small aircraft and ships and focuses primarily on gathering data on abundance, trends, distribution, and foraging behavior of pinnipeds. When not in the field, Erin spends her time processing and managing data, analyzing imagery for species identification, and making maps. She also assists other programs at the Marine Mammal Lab when they’re in need of an extra hand for field projects such as the northern fur seal population and abundance survey or the Californian sea lion mark and resight project.
Erin grew up in the small coastal town of Coos Bay, Oregon where her love for the marine environment began while poking around in tide pools at the age of 2. She eventually earned an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science with a focus in aquatic ecology from Oregon State University. Upon graduating, Erin worked on a variety of projects in Oregon including rocky intertidal ecological research and salmon habitat surveys. She also ventured to Venezuela, the Galapagos Islands, and New Zealand to work on various long-term ecological research projects. Shortly after moving to Seattle, Erin became involved with the Marine Mammal Lab where she has been ever since. In the summer of 2015, she completed a master’s degree in GIS at the University of Washington.
Her favorite part of the job is “traveling to the beautiful, and often remote, places in Alaska,” Erin says. She is currently out into the field conducting aerial surveys in the Chukchi Sea for bearded seals, ringed seals, and polar bears, using the technology of infrared cameras to detect animals on the ice. The data collected from these surveys will be used to calculate abundance estimates and create distribution maps - both crucial for sound decision making, co-management, conservation, and permitting of activities in the Arctic that could impact these species or their habitat. This summer Erin will be hosting a JISAO intern who will be assisting her process the data collected from Chukchi Sea surveys.
Erin is happiest when spending time outdoors - on top of a mountain, in the woods, or at the beach. She enjoys hiking, gardening, beachcombing, attending concerts, and spending time with her family, friends, and dog named Coos. What’s on her bucket list? “So many things!” Erin says. “Backpacking in all of the amazing US National Parks; traveling to France, Italy and Spain; and trekking in Tierra del Fuego in Chile.”