A rainbow is seen in the ocean near a city.

Meet Our Crew!

Paul Sieswerda
Executive Director

After retiring in 2009 from a long career as Curator at both the New England and NY Aquariums, Paul L. Sieswerda was drawn to studying the whales that are returning to the waters around NY City.  “The whales came to me. “ he says.  Sieswerda has developed the 501c3 organization, Gotham Whale, to study, educate about, and advocate for the marine mammals around NYC.  Gotham Whale maintains a database of marine mammal sightings from their observations aboard the American Princess, a whale watch boat out of Rockaway, Queens and other Citizen Science sources.  Gotham Whale keeps The NYC Humpback Whale Catalog which identifies individual whales from photographs of their flukes.  Gotham Whale tracks the species, location, and behavior to gain insight into the whales as they come closer and closer to the Big City.

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Celia Ackerman
On-board Naturalist & Research Associate

Celia has spent a career with the Wildlife Conservation Society, caring for and training a variety of marine mammals. She has first-hand experience with numerous species from seals, sea lions, walrus, whales and dolphins to polar bears and even penguins. Celia has taken her knowledge and applied it towards conservation in the field by joining Team Gotham Whale. She contributes data, sightings reports, photographs and enjoys sharing her passion for marine life with all guests on our whale watch cruises. 

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Kristi Ashley Collum
Lead Dolphin Whale Researcher

In order to track a variety of [dolphin] characteristics, Kristi developed the first photo-identification catalog for the New York Bight. She has a Masters in Animal Behavior & Conservation from [Hunter College]. Serving as researcher, educator, and advocate, Kristi has represented Gotham Whale at international conferences and spearheaded summer program collaborations with the Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity. She is the Founding Director for the Northeast Chapter or Society for Marine Mammalogy and a Trip Leader & Northeast Outreach Coordinator for National Geographic . Kristi also manages our Instagram. 

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Bonnie Crawford
Membership Manager

Bonnie attended Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky where she met Gotham Whale’s Founder, Paul Sieswerda.  They reconnected a few years ago.  Paul's passion for whales and marine life impressed Bonnie and she asked to volunteer in order to learn more and help the organization.  She found a way by managing Gotham Whale's membership program.

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Dr. Merryl Kafka
Director of Education

Dr. Merryl Kafka is the Director of Education for Gotham Whale. She was the Curator of Education at the New York Aquarium, a division of the Wildlife Conservation Society, providing marine science programs to community groups, families, students, and teachers for over 30 years. She is co-founder of the Rachel Carson HS of Coastal Studies in Coney Island, and an Executive Board Member of the New York State Marine Education Association (NYSMEA). She received her M.S. Degree in Biology and N.Y. State Certificate of Museum Studies from New York University, and received her Doctorate in Instructional Leadership from St. John’s University.

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Beth Anne Miller
Editor of The Gam, Gotham Whale’s Quarterly Newsletter

Beth has a B.S. in Biology from Southampton College of Long Island University and an M.A. in Literature from Queens College, CUNY. A lifelong fascination with the sea led her to participate in Southampton College’s “SEAmester” program, in which she sailed from the Caribbean up the Eastern Seaboard on a schooner, followed by an internship at Moss Landing Marine Lab in the Monterey Bay area of California. After a number of years working as a DNA Sequencing Technician at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, her career path took a 180-degree turn toward the publishing industry. where she currently works. In June 2018, Beth was accepted to The Arctic Circle Art & Science Residency and spent over two weeks sailing along the western coast of Svalbard in the High Arctic on a three-masted barkentine. A published author and scuba diver, Beth lives on Long Island and is a frequent passenger on the American Princess.

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Artie Raslich

Artie Raslich is an award winning photographer focused on photographing and documenting Humpback Whales in the waters off Long Island and New York City. He also has a passion for both surfing and concert photography. Artie is the official photographer for Gotham Whale on the American Princess and is the photo curator of Gotham Whale's New York City Humpback Whale catalog. More of his work can be seen on his website: www.artieraslich.com 

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David Rosenthal
Research Biologist

David received his zoology degree from the University of Rhode Island where he studied North Atlantic right whales and West Indian manatees of Belize at the Graduate School of Oceanography under Dr. Howard E. Winn.  David worked four years in the Education Department at Mystic Marinelife Aquarium and later became Animal Care Assistant at Miami Seaquarium supervising the Florida manatee exhibit.  David worked with Dr. Gregory D. Bossart managing the Florida manatee and short-finned pilot whale rehabilitation programs. He was Field Stranding Technician at the Brigantine Marine Mammal Stranding Center and has worked 24 years at NOAA Fisheries collaborating with recreational and commercial fishers throughout the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

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Joan Smith
Data Coordinator

Joan Smith is the Data Coordinator for Gotham Whale. Joan is a retired social worker from the New York City Department of Education and has volunteered with several groups and organizations over the years.  She is a scuba diver and member of the Staten Island Sport Divers Club. Joan compiles the data collected when a whale is sighted and updates our records on Happy Whale. 


Danielle Brown
Lead Humpback Whale Researcher

Danielle is a PhD candidate in the department of Ecology, Evolution & Natural Resources at Rutgers University. She earned a Master's degree in Environmental Science and Policy from George Mason University. Danielle used data collected by Gotham Whale to complete her thesis on humpback whale occurrence and vessel risk in New York and New Jersey. Danielle has experience in both humpback whale and bottlenose dolphin photo identification, and has previously worked as a Field Stranding Technician at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. She also assists in the management of the NYCHWC.

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Paul Graham

Our Pauls, Paul Graham and Paul Sieswerda, have shared a friendship and a love for the ocean for over 70 years. When Sieswerda asked Graham to help start Gotham Whale, he accepted immediately. As a SCUBA diver, Graham has explored the underwater sights of the Bahamas, California, Mexico, Hawaii, Truk Lagoon, the Galápagos Islands, Tahiti, Indonesia, Great Barrier Reef, Red Sea, and Mediterranean Sea, just to name a few. His career in marketing and product development followed his time as an All American football player including a short stint in the NFL and Canadian Leagues.

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Catherine McClave

Catherine is the president and owner of The Fish Doctor Inc. and the former Curator of Aquatic Health Science of the New York Aquarium. Kate has worked with Gotham’s founder Paul Sieswerda on marine mammal science and research for over 35 years. As the Curator of Aquatic Health at the New York Aquarium, she led the health and water quality programs for the aquarium’s collections and contributed expertise to marine mammal stranding events both locally and globally. Kate continues to do conservation biology work with endangered species for zoological society’s in the US and internationally. Kate holds a Bs in Marine Biology from Roger Williams University and a CFP from the American Fisheries Society. Kate joined Gotham Whale’s board in 2016. She is passionate about the ocean and its inhabitants and hoping to make a difference for the marine mammals of Gotham.

Paul Solano

Paul Solano
Fund-Raising/Development Advisor

Paul Solano is our Fund-Raising/Development Advisor with over 35 years of non-profit experience in academia and health care institutions. He has successfully raised over $14 million in a paid capacity as a Development professional. Paul has also held many Development Chair positions in his 35 years of volunteer service as a Board Member for over 10 non-profit organizations. He is currently a General Manager for a popular long-time restaurant in the Greater Boston area and hosts his own Podcast called "PaulPonders" through his PSANDALLMARKETINGGROUP.

Zach Kiyver

Zack Klyver

Zack Klyver is the science director of Mysticetus Consulting Group and the president of FLUKES: International Whale Tours. He is a Maine-based ocean consultant, born in Nairobi, Kenya and grew up in commercial fishing family in Eastport, Maine. He is a graduate of the College of the Atlantic with a B.A. in Human Ecology, where he worked with Allied Whale. He has guided whale and seabird watching tours on the Gulf of Maine for 34 seasons, and led over 3,000 trips with over 700,000 passengers. Zack co-founded and co-chairs the North Atlantic Whale Watch Naturalist Association – that includes naturalists from Newfoundland to Bermuda. Over ten winter seasons he worked as an endangered right whale and sea turtle observer in the southeast. He has helped coordinate Maine right whale surveys, worked as a marine mammal lecturer in Antarctica, as a marine mammal observer in Arctic above Alaska.

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A man in a suit and tie smiling for the camera.
A man in a suit and tie smiling for the camera.