Staff Spotlight: Christy Sims

Research Scientist

Christy SimsChristy Sims has worked with NOAA’s Marine Mammal Lab at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center since 1998 first as a volunteer, then a student worker, a contractor, and finally as a JISAO employee since July 2015. Christy is a Research Scientist collaborating with the Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program and works on the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Project assisting in the collection and analysis of aerial survey data that is used to produce abundance estimates of this endangered marine mammal.

Christy was born and raised in North Texas where she developed a love for the outdoors and animals. She attended Texas A&M in College Station and earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Zoology. After college, to expand her horizons, Christy volunteered at A&M’s Marine Mammal Behavioral and Ecology Lab in Galveston TX where she discovered a knack for photo-identification of bottlenose dolphins. Life, networking, and random chance led Christy to Seattle and NOAA’s Marine Mammal Laboratory where she started volunteering on killer whale photo-identification in 1998. She continued to work at the lab as a graduate student while attending the University of Washington’s School of Marine Affairs Masters program from 1999-2001. Her thesis focused on a policy analysis of the Southern Resident Killer whale endangered species listing.

Currently, when Christy isn’t counting whales from video at a desk in Seattle, she can be found bumping around in small airplanes surveying for marine mammals in Alaska. Her primary research takes her to Cook Inlet Alaska (pictured below) looking for belugas but she also works on the Aerial Surveys of Artic Marine Mammals (ASAMM) Project that takes her to the Chukchi Sea (and her home away from home; Utqiaġvik, AK) looking for anything and everything as a Team Leader. Her other tasks at work have included humpback and bowhead whale photo-identification and database design and Cook Inlet in Alaskamaintenance (a task she oddly loves). Christy is also the resident video camera technician and can often be found playing around with the newest HD or GoPro cameras and video editing software.

The best part of her job is not only helping collect important data on a critically endangered species but also supporting new and inventive ways to collect the data thus providing the best possible science to resource managers for their use in management decisions.

Christy loves reading, gardening, running with her co-workers, as well as camping, hiking and playing basketball with her kids. She often treats her co-workers to baking experiments in hopes of winning a million dollars with her entries to the Pillsbury Bake-off. Although her bucket list includes trips to Paris and an African safari, she can usually be found managing the wildlife around her home that includes chickens, parakeets, cats, a dog, two kids and a spouse.