Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Riki Ott

Riki Ott

Riki Ott, PhD, is a marine toxicologist, author, and former commercial fisher. She was born and raised in Wisconsin. When she was a young teen, her father sued the state of Wisconsin to ban DDT, instilling a strong environmental health ethic and awareness in her. Upon reading Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and The Sea Around Us, Riki decided to become a marine biologist; a decision that brought her to Cordova, Alaska in 1985 after earning advanced degrees in marine toxicology. She has a PhD from the University of Washington, a MS from the University of South Carolina, and a BS from Colby College. She began commercial salmon fishing in Prince William Sound and the Copper River Delta, and in 1987 joined the boards of Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU) and United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA), representing fishermen statewide on oil and water quality issues. In 1989, merely hours before the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef, Riki warned the Valdez community that “it is not a matter of if, but when, there is a great oil spill." Throughout the years following the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Riki witnessed first-hand the ecological destruction and social chaos that arose from this man-made disaster and became an “accidental activist” in its wake. She is the author of Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (2008) and Sound Truth and Corporate Myths: the Legacy of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (2004). She is also featured in the award-winning documentary "Black Wave." Now an internationally-recognized expert in oil spill impacts to wildlife, people, and communities, she is called into communities impacted by oil disasters to assist people by exposing the extent of damages. Riki’s scientific knowledge and humanitarian intervention have led her to challenge the legal concept of corporate personhood. She directs Ultimate Civics, a project of Earth Island Institute, and teaches rights-based community organizing from fifth grade to university, sharing practical skills for sustainable living and ending corporate rule. She is an itinerant campaigner. For more about Riki Ott and her activities and activism, see her website.

Riki Ott appears in the following new Jukebox projects: