Photo of Sonia Ibarra

Sonia Natalie Ibarra


Tamamta co-Program Coordinator

Postdoctoral Fellow

Fisheries Management
Environmental Studies
Human Dimensions and Community Development
Marine Ecology
Marine Invertebrates
Sustainable Harvesting

17101 Point Lena Loop Rd
Lena 311
Juneau, Alaska 99801


University of Alaska Fairbanks
Ph.D. Fisheries

Humboldt State University
B.S. Marine Biology



Sonia Ibarra grew up in rural northern California on the traditional territories of the Nomlaki people where she has fond memories running barefoot through the oak woods with siblings. She is the oldest of five and takes pride in her heritage as a Mexican woman born in the U.S. whose ancestral ties to Apache and Caxcan ancestors.Her experiences and training since 2008 have focused on monitoring diverse marine ecosystems from muddy clam beds to dense kelp forests in Alaska and California to coral reefs in the Philippines and Caribbean. In 2012, her journey in pursuit of a PhD took a rewarding turn towards a humbling experience of learning how to respectfully work with Indigenous communities in Southeast Alaska as well as working towards decolonizing her perceptions of her identity and spirit.



Pirtle, J.L., S.N. Ibarra, and G.L. Eckert. 2012. Nearshore subtidal community structure compared between inner coast and outer coast sites in Southeast Alaska. Polar Biology 35(12): 1889–1910.



  • Weaving Indigenous and Western ways of knowing
  • Community-based research
  • Decolonizing research processes
  • Elevating the voices of Indigenous communities
  • Documenting Indigenous fishers knowledge
  • Cedar bark weaving


Research Overview

Through her PhD journey (2012-2021), she became more aware of how Indigenous communities throughout Alaska have been impacted by colonial natural resource management practices and educational institutions, despite their millennial connections and deeply-embedded understandings of these lands and waters. As an outcome of this understanding, she prioritizes work with Indigenous communities that reflect their needs, values, and knowledge systems while actively working towards her healing process of reconnecting with her own ancestors. Her research broadly focuses on weaving Indigenous and Western knowledge systems through a process that aims to share power with communities and elevating the knowledge and experience of Indigenous peoples.


Links and Affiliations


Awards and Honors

  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Dissertation Fellow, Jan.-Dec. 2019
  • Sequoyah Fellow, American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), Oct. 2019
  • Cultural Diversity Travel Award, Alaska Chapter-American Fisheries Society, Apr. 2018
  • Excellence in Biology, AISES, Sept. 2017
  • Meritorious Service Award, American Fisheries Society Alaska Chapter, Mar. 2017
  • Marine Ecosystem Sustainability in the Arctic and Subarctic Fellow, National Science Foundation (NSF), 2015-2017
  • Graduate Research Program Fellow, NSF, 2012-2015
  • Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees in the Earth Sciences Fellow, NSF, 2008-2009.


Community Service

Developing community-based projects with Indigenous rural communities in Southeast Alaska