After sailing the world, marine ecosystems researcher returns to Kodiak

August 15, 2017

Smiling man Mike Litzow

After ten years of sailing the world and living down under, Mike Litzow has returned to Kodiak, Alaska, to work on several research projects. This month he is starting an assistant research professor appointment at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center—with the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

He is happy to return. “I lived in Kodiak for seven years in the early 2000s, and I love being in such a vibrant commercial fishing port,” he said.

“This place really underscores the importance of better understanding the dynamics that govern the ecosystems we exploit, and the Kodiak community is very supportive of marine research. Fishermen and processors really get the need for science.”

Litzow is principal investigator on an Alaska Sea Grant project on early warning indicators to fishery managers for ecosystem shifts in the eastern Bering Sea.

He also has a National Science Foundation grant on the effect of sea level pressure fields and sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska on changes in climate processes and fish populations. And he is working on a NOAA funded research project.

Litzow and his family have been on the move for the past several years. He and his wife set out from Kodiak on a 37 foot sailboat in 2007 and sailed to Tasmania, Australia, where his second child was born and he earned his PhD.

“We moved up to a 45' boat there, and eventually sailed across the Pacific Ocean three times, and across the Atlantic twice. We sailed back to Kodiak via the Panama Canal and Hawai'i, and returned ten years and one week after we left,” said Litzow.

“Kodiak’s position in the middle of the GOA shelf makes it a great place to do field work, and I'm looking forward to getting back to some hands-on biology,” he said.

You can read about Litzow’s family travels in their sailing blog. He also wrote a book about sailing from Kodiak to Australia, South from Alaska: Sailing to Australia with a baby for crew.

— By Sue Keller

Alaska Sea Grant is a statewide marine research, education, and outreach program, and is a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agents provide assistance that helps Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy marine and coastal resources.