header image

Meet the Antarctic Team!


  • Jo-Ann Mellish, 2011-2012

Jo-Ann’s experience with seals and sea lions has come about by being in the right place at the right time, not just once but three times. Even though she had grand plans to study the physiology of salamanders, her project fell through. Undeterred, she got up the nerve to call up a new professor who unexpectedly took her on to work on a project with seals. That was more than 15 years ago, and she has been working with seals and sea lions ever since. During a short time in Texas, she met Markus Horning and once again was in the right place at the right time. Markus was working on a tag that was to be used in Steller sea lions in Alaska. Her skills in health assessments were essential to the LHX project so he asked her to join the project. Shortly afterwards, Jo-Ann took a Research Faculty position with the University of Alaska Fairbanks at the Alaska SeaLife Center. This facility has served as the home base for the implant project since the first Steller sea lion was implanted in 2005. The team has worked so well together that they also work jointly on projects in the Antarctic.

See Jo at:
Alaska Sea Life Center
University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Markus Horning, 2011-2012

Markus started out scrubbing seal tanks and ended up with a career.  As a college student Markus took a job as seal tank cleaner at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His interest in seals and sea lions deepened when he was offered an opportunity to travel to Antarctica to study seals. Markus often has project ideas during his fieldwork. The idea for the Life History Transmitter Project came up while he was doing aerial surveys for Steller sea lions along the Aleutian Islands in 1998. Markus developed the concept of the Life History Transmitter and the core software  the tags use to determine the host animal’s state . Working with Roger Hill of Wildlife Computers, Markus built the first few Life History Transmitters in his former lab at Texas A&M University at Galveston.  Once Wildlife computers began the production of a larger number of tags, Markus then focused on coordinating the overall LHX project. Markus is currently working at Oregon State University as a pinniped ecologist for the Marine Mammal Institute. He studies seals and sea lions using telemetry in Oregon, Alaska, and as far away as the Antarctic. He is currently working with Roger Hill of Wildlife Computers to develop the next generation of Life History Transmitters known as LHX2 that can be implanted in smaller animals.

See Markus at:
Marine Mammal Institute, Oregon State University
  • Allyson Hindle, 2011-2012

Allyson is another physiologist on the team, and has worked with a variety of mammals, from very small shrews to large seals and sea lions. She also voyaged to Texas to work with Markus as a PhD student – it was there that she first teamed up with Jo and Markus in the Antarctic. She is currently holding two post-doctoral positions researching extremes in cold physiology: with B470 and the 1,000 lb Weddell seals of McMurdo Sound; and the 200g hibernating ground squirrels at the University of Colorado.
  • Roger Hill, 2011-2012

Roger received his doctorate in Engineering from Oxford University, England, in 1980. As a research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, he began designing and building electronic instruments for his own research. In 1982 he designed microprocessor-controlled device to record depth and heart rate, and to take blood samples on freely diving Weddell seals in the Antarctic. By 1985 he was incorporating satellite transmitters into his tags. Soon other researchers were requesting he produce tags for their research. To meet this need, in 1986 Roger and his wife, Suzanne, established Wildlife Computers, where they still work. Wildlife Computers manufactures the main part of the tags. Roger is responsible for the design of the LHX circuit board and the operational software that runs the tag.  As the design has matured, he has been responsible for integrating our latest ideas.  Roger is working on new board design to reduce the overall tag size for LHX2, the next generation tag that can be implanted into animals as small as sea otters.

See Roger at:
Wildlife Computers
  • Rachel Berngartt, 2011-2012

Rachel Berngartt, D.V.M.  is an Alaskan veterinarian having involvement with organizations that specialize in marine mammal, shelter animal, and evidence based medicine.

Work related pursuits are four-fold:  Clinical Director of the Gastineau Humane Society; Letter Holder for the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network; Owner, Bridge Veterinary Services, LLC and Alaska SeaLife Center relief veterinarian. She has a long history of providing veterinary clinical services for marine mammal field research projects.  Dr. Bergngartt met Drs. Mellish and Horning while performing surgeries for the Steller Sea Lion LHX project at the Alaska SeaLife Center in 2009.

As a citizen, spearheading a change in Alaska state statutes regarding the practice of veterinary medicine remains a cherished accomplishment. Veterinarians may now report animal cruelty to proper authorities without being penalized for violating client confidentiality. She remains active in providing expert witness testimony in legal cases involving animal neglect and abuse.

Invitations to speak and support community events which have the goal of increasing the public understanding of science capture her interest.

  • John Skinner, 2011-2012

John’s passion for wildlife came to him during a six-year tour in the Pacific with the U.S. Navy. The  biodiversity he found among the Hawaiian islands inspired him to pursue a career in wildlife research. After finishing his undergraduate degree in wildlife biology at Colorado State University, John’s first experiences came as a terrestrial research technician. Over the course of several years he traveled across the U.S. to take part in studies working with elk, bighorn sheep, moose, black bears, peregrine falcons, and mule deer. A fortunate miscommunication while applying for work on yet another moose project lead John to his graduate research on the birthing demographics and behavioral ontogeny of Atlantic harbor seal pups in the Gulf of Maine. Soon after completing his masters at the University of Maine in 2006, he joined the science team at the Alaska SeaLife Center. John is currently a research associate in the pinniped program and provides analytical and field support to Jo-Ann and Markus with the Life History Trasmitter Project.


  • Henry Kaiser, 2012

Grammy winner Henry Kaiser is widely recognized as one of the most creative and innovative guitarists, improvisers, and producers in the fields of rock, jazz, world, and contemporary experimental musics. The California-based musician is one of the most extensively recorded as well, having appeared on more than 250 different albums and contributed to countless television and film soundtracks. A restless collaborator who constantly seeks the most diverse and personally challenging contexts for his music, Mr. Kaiser not only produces and contributes to a staggering number of recorded projects, he performs frequently throughout the USA, Canada, Europe and Japan, with several regular groupings as well as solo guitar concerts and concerts of freely improvised music with a host of diverse instrumentalists.

On the global roots front, Kaiser has made 4 albums of cross-cultural collaborations with Korean musicians Sang Won Park and Jin Hi Kim. He is also known for the 10 albums that he has made with musicians from Madagascar, his many albums of collaboration with musicians from Sweden and Norway, his album with Zimbabwe’s Thomas Mapfumo and Wadada Leo Smith, several collaborations with Vietnamese musicians, and his production work on 6 albums of music from Burma, as well as his numerous productions with Hindustani musicians such as Ali Akbar Khan and Brij Bhushan Kabra. Most recently he recorded 2 albums of collaboration with Carnatic musicians from South India, playing together with a Chinese gu-qin player from Beijing and two other American Improvisors.

Kaiser has had a parallel career in the film and television industry for over 35 years, working as a producer, director and soundtrack composer. He directed and produced many hours of science television programming. He received an Academy Award nomination for his work as the producer for Werner Herzog’s ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD, he was also the underwater camera and soundtrack composer for that film. Kaiser worked on 3 other Herzog films: THE WILD BLUE YONDER, GRIZZLY MAN, and LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY.

He is a scientific diver in the US ANTARCTIC PROGRAM. 2012 will mark his tenth deployment beneath the twenty foot thick ice of the Ross Sea. Previously he taught underwater research at THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY for 17 years; where he was a an early pioneer in the use of underwater video for scientific research and diver training.


  • Mee-ya Monnin, 2011-2012

    Read about Mee-ya HERE

See Mee-ya at:
Marine Mammal Institute, Oregon State University
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply