An interview with Dr. Katrin Iken, 2020 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Research Award winner

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) The winners of the 2020 Usibelli awards were announced last week in a University of Alaska Fairbanks news release.

Dr. Katrin Iken, a marine biologist with UAF’s College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, is this year’s recipient of the Emil Usibelli Distinguished Research award. (Katrin Iken)

According to UAF’s website, the Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research, and Service Awards are “presented to individuals who display extraordinary excellence in one of three categories representing the Land, Sea and Space Grant mission of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.”

Dr. Katrin Iken, a marine biologist with UAF’s College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, is this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Research award. Boasting a bibliography of over 100 peer-reviewed articles published since 1996, Dr. Iken is currently keeping busy with over 12 active research projects.

“My specialty is working on marine seafloor communities…called ‘benthos’,” says Dr. Iken. “I do most of my work in the Arctic, which is a region of great interest for us here in Alaska, but even globally because of very large climate changes that are happening in the region,” Dr. Iken explains.

However, her work does not revolve around only one locus. “I also work in the Gulf of Alaska and [this past summer] I even had a research project happening in the Antarctic,” explains Dr. Iken. “So it’s a bit spread out.”
The body of work for which Dr. Iken has won the Usibelli award has been informed by a philosophy of observation. However, Dr. Iken says that observation is followed by interpretation. She gives examples of fisheries yields and subsistence practices as applications for her research.

Regarding the award, Dr. Iken says she has not yet processed the information. “This is pretty brand new news, so I’m not sure I have even internalized the implications of that yet,” Dr. Iken says.
She adds, however, that she believes she has been fortunate in her work receiving exposure due to grant writing and outreach efforts. She says that this has a lot to do with her winning the award.
Candidates for a Usibelli award must be nominated by someone else, such as a student or peer. For Dr. Iken, acknowledging this fact, as well as actually winning the award, is a validating experience.

“What it really means to me is that other people think I’m doing good work,” says Dr. Iken. “It definitely motivates me to continue doing this work and engaging students in my work,” she adds.

Copyright 2019 KTVF. All rights reserved.