Fellow Story

Parker wins AISES Professional of the Year Technical Excellence Award

Fellow(s): Keith Parker

Each year, The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) honors several individuals  who represent the best of their Indigenous communities and companies, providing us inspiring examples about what it takes to succeed in STEM pursuits. These exemplars are scientists or engineers who are committed to excellence—not only for themselves but for such others as co-workers, family members, community youth, and Tribal and First Nations.

Keith Parker is the AISES 2023 Technical Excellence awardee. The Technical Excellence nominee must have made a significant contribution to science, engineering, or technology by having designed, developed, managed, or assisted in the development of a product, service, system, or intellectual property.

Parker is a senior fisheries biologist for his Yurok Tribe, working at the intersection of Western and Indigenous science. Parker is a frequent speaker on the impact of climate change and drought on salmon populations, and witnessed the largest adult fish kill in U.S. history (68,000 adult Chinook salmon) on the Klamath River in 2002. The kill was due to unjust water flow management relative to multiple river dams; and today the Yurok Tribe is preparing for the nation’s largest-ever dam removal project, which will reopen 400 miles of Klamath fish habitat. In childhood, Parker watched his grandfather protest federal bans on tribal fishing rights; and ironically, he is responsible now for co-stewarding the Klamath River’s 44 miles through the Yurok reservation. He also has family in Karuk, Hupa and Tolowa communities. A participant in AISES’ Lighting the Pathway Indigenous research career program, Parker’s own research has combined thousands of generations of scientific tribal observation with cutting-edge genetic sequencing. In 2018, he discovered two new subspecies, or ecotypes, of Pacific lamprey (a jawless fish that resembles an eel)—one that matures in the river and one that matures in the ocean. Lamprey has great cultural and historical value to Pacific Northwest tribes.

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) is a national nonprofit organization focused on substantially increasing the representation of Indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific Islands in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies and careers. AISES will honor the awardees, who represent the best of their Indigenous communities and companies, at the 2023 AISES National Conference in Spokane, Washington, on October 19-21.

Congratulations, Keith! 

Editor's note: content originally appeared in an AISES Press Release