Dr. Riki Ott witnessed first-hand the ecological destruction and social chaos from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska––and became an “accidental activist” in its wake. A trained marine toxicologist and former commercial fisher woman, she has written two books on oil spill impacts to ecosystems, people, and communities and starred in Black Wave, an award-winning feature film. In 2009, Ott co-founded Ultimate Civics, a project of Earth Island Institute, and the national grassroots coalition In May 2010, Ott brought her expertise to the Gulf of Mexico, volunteering for one year to expose a public health crisis of chemical illness and to help with local community organizing. For her work in the Gulf, Huffington Post named Ott a 2010 Game Changer. On the one-year memorial of the BP disaster in 2011, she co-hosted a national webcast teach-in, Changing the Endgame, to expose the high costs of America’s fossil fuel dependency––and show how communities are reducing their carbon footprint. Ott advocates ending corporate rule and creating sustainable communities. She lectures nationally and internationally, inspiring students from fifth grade through universities and adults to take action and showing by example how one person can make a difference.

Academic Training

  • Doctorate of Philosophy (1985) from University of Washington, WA, School of Fisheries with emphasis on effects of heavy metals on benthic invertebrates
  • Masters of Science (1980) from University of South Carolina, SC, Baruch Institute in marine biology with emphasis on effects of oil on zooplankton
  • Bachelor of Science (1976) from Colby College, Waterville, Maine


  • Co-director of Ultimate Civics, a project of Earth Island Institute (May 2009–present);
  • Anacapa Scholar, The Thacher School (9-12), Ojai, CA (Nov. 2007–Feb. 2008); taught Ultimate Civics: Human Rights v. Corporate Rights
  • Expert witness in the State of Alaska on certain issues relating to effects, fate and transportation of marine oil spills, and environmentally sensitive areas in the Copper River Delta
  • Co-founder, vice chair of Oiled Regions of Alaska Foundation (2001–2009) to help Exxon Valdez oil spill claimants with financial management and charitable giving to rebuild oiled communities
  • Board member (1987–1999) of United Fishermen of Alaska; chair (1988-1997) of Habitat Committee
  • Member (1990–1996) of Technical Advisory Group to USEPA and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for federal (NPDES) ballast water discharge permit for Alyeska Pipeline Services Company
  • Fishing industry representative on Governor’s Task Force on Water Quality (1992–1996)
  • Co-founding board member (1993–1995) of Alaska Clean Water Alliance and staff (1995–1997) as manager of Copper River Delta Project
  • Co-founder of, volunteer lobbyist with, Oil Reform Alliance (1989–1992) to strengthen oil spill prevention and response laws in wake of Exxon Valdez spill
  • Fishing industry representative on Forestry Fishery Cooperative Research Group (1995–1997)
  • Fishing industry representative on Board of Forestry’s Science & Technical Advisory Committee (1996–1997)
  • Managing partner and designer for Hot Yotts, a commercial fiber art company (1990–2011)
  • Co-founder of, commercial fisherwith, Ott and Carpenter, Inc., a commercial fishing business in Prince William Sound, Alaska (1986–1993)

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