Donna is a Ph.D. student in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University Washington, working with Kristin Laidre at the Applied Physics Lab’s Polar Science Center. She is primarily interested in habitat use of Arctic marine mammals in a changing climate. Dynamic physical changes are occurring in Arctic marine ecosystems, and Donna’s research goal is to understand resource selection and build predictive models that use projections of sea ice in the 21st century to understand how top marine predators will adjust and adapt to climate change. Her research will quantify current and predicted habitat use of whales in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, given projected environmental conditions under predicted climate scenarios. Specifically, she will relate the behavior and movements of whales to physical and biological variables like sea ice, prey distribution, and bathymetry.
Donna has been involved in research on marine and freshwater ecosystems since she was an undergraduate at the University of Washington. After obtaining two B.S. degrees (in Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation Biology and in Aquatic & Fishery Sciences), she began research on Southern Resident killer whales in Washington and British Columbia inshore waters. For her M.S. (University of Washington, 2006), she developed spatial and temporal models of killer whale habitat use. Donna then moved to Newfoundland, Canada where she began focusing on the ecology of Arctic marine mammals and worked as a marine biologist with a consulting company. However, the lure of academia pulled her back to her West Coast roots, and she currently enjoys spending time with family and exploring local trails and paddle routes.