Jennifer Burns
Meet Dr. Jennifer Burns

About Dr. Burns

Where are you from?

Born: Pennsylvania

Lived: San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle.

Where do you live now?

Anchorage, AK

Where did/do you go to college?

Undergrad: Univ. Calif. Berkeley

MSc. University of Washington, Seattle

PhD University of Alaska Fairbanks

Postdoc – University of California Santa Cruz

About the Weddell seal project

What is your main role on this project/team?

PI (Principal Investigator) which means I’m the team leader and responsible for the entire project – start to finish.

What ‘big question’ do you hope this project answers?

Figuring out the factors that influence pregnancy success in Weddell seals.

Please share your favorite picture of a Weddell seal.

Jenn's favorite seal pic
So cute! This is Jenn's favorite seal picture. Photo credit: Alex Eilers, MMPA permit #17411.

Background Questions

What is the most exciting, most amazing or scariest thing that has happened to you during your work?

Most stressful and most fun (all at the same time) is handling the animals – it’s a real perk of the job but also nerve wracking – we want to get the work done and keep everyone and the seals safe.

Jenn tagging
Jenn and Alex tagging a seal. Photo credit: Alex Eilers, MMPA permit #17411.

What are some of the perks of your job?

Getting to travel to cool places for research and meetings and to work with great people and students.

If asked to “sell” this career to someone, what would you say to convince them to pursue it?

That you get to work on things that you find interesting, to work with bright and interested students and colleagues, and that you have a lot of independence and flexibility in setting your schedule and tasks.

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your career?

Be interested in what you are doing, take lots of math and statistics courses, get as much hands on research experience through internships/volunteering etc. as you can.

Fun Questions

Describe yourself in three words.

  • Quiet
  • Determined
  • Flexible

What was your favorite class in middle school, high school and college?

  • Middle School – Biology
  • High School – Marine biology
  • College – Field courses in marine mammals

How many hats do you own?

More than 10, and my favorite hat depends on season and use.

Jenn in hat
Jenn in one of her favorite hats. Photo credit: Alex Eilers.

What are some interesting places you’ve traveled?

  • South Africa
  • Antarctica
  • Zimbabwe
  • Norway
  • Northern Canada
  • New Zealand
  • Chile
  • Australia

Besides Antarctica, where in the world would you like to visit?

Galapagos Islands

What’s the number one thing on your ‘Bucket List’?

River raft the Grand Canyon (with no motors).

What 5 items would you take to a desert island other than food and water?

  • Bird/natural history book
  • Snorkeling mask and fins
  • Notebook and pencil
  • Sunscreen
  • Tent

If I take a look inside your refrigerator what would I find?

Lots of ingredients, not much premade.

Tell me 5 ways to use a pencil – other than to write.

  • Point
  • Erase
  • Stir coffee (tastes bad)
  • Prop open window (don’t recommend)
  • Poke something
    I can't believe all of the 'uses' for a pencil!?! Photo credit: Alex Eilers.


David (lausann…

Do pups when they are born go get their food or do their family get their food for them?