CFOS Students

picture of Kelly Cates

Kelly Cates

Ph.D. Student

College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
17101 Point Lena Loop Road
Juneau, AK 99801-8344
(360) 620-5032
Western Washington University
B.S Marine Biology
FAA Section 107 Pilot
Small Vessel Operator
Open Water Diver
Crossbow Certified
Hunter Safety
CPR/First Aid
Kelly earned a B.S. in marine biology from Western Washington University in 2012. Upon graduating she spent 6 months abroad in Australia working as a marine mammal observer conducting genetic and distribution surveys for snubnose dolphins and as an aerial observer for an abundance survey of dugons. After working in the private sector for 2013, Kelly hiked the John Muir Trail before heading to Fairbanks, Alaska, to begin a PhD in Fisheries in 2014. During her time at UAF Kelly has focused her research on the health of humpback whales in Southeast Alaska. She has also had the opportunity to join surveys aboard EVOS and NOAA vessels, as well as complete a 1-year Knauss Marine Policy fellowship in Washington, DC. In addition to presenting at several conferences and publishing three papers, Kelly also founded the Alaska Student Chapter for the Society of Marine Mammalogy. Kelly enjoys adventuring in Alaska in her free time, playing with her dog Flint and hosting potlucks with friends.
Cates, K., and A. Acevedo-Gutierrez. 2017. Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) tolerance to vessels under different levels of boat traffic. Aquatic Mammals. 43(2):193200. doi:

Cates, K., D.P. DeMaster, R.L. Brownell Jr, G. Silber, S. Gende, R. Leaper, F. Ritter, and S. Panigada. 2016. Strategic Plan to Mitigate the Impacts of Ship Strikes on Cetacean Populations: 2017-2020. Draft.

Physiology of Humpback Whales in Alaskan Waters
  • Marine mammal physiology
  • Marine mammal behavior
  • Marine policy
Research Overview
My graduate research focuses on humpback whale health indices. I primarily focus on steroid hormones extracted from blubber and blow to inform on stress and reproductive condition, as well as body condition which is determined from aerial photographs. Throughout my research I have enjoyed implementing and developing new technologies. Most recently I have incorporated UAV into my field work to collect blow spray and aerial images and I helped developed code that can automatically analyze the condition of whale from a photo. I hope that my research will provide the foundation for long-term monitor of humpback whales in Southeast Alaska and that the implementation of new technologies will pave the way for UAVs and body condition work to be conducted on other marine mammal species.
Current Research Projects
  • Humpback whale health indices
  • Resilience and Adaptation Program Fellow
  • American Fisheries Society
  • Rasmuson
  • Society for Marine Mammalogy
  • Alaska Student Chapter for the Society of Marine Mammalogy
Student Internships:
  • Knauss Marine Policy Fellow, Intel Intern
Community Service
  • Letter to a Scientist
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