Helen Domski | WNY Scientist 2016

2016-helen-domskeHelen Domski – Bringing Science to the Shore

For nearly 40 years, Helen has dedicated her career to studying the world’s oceans and the Great Lakes and then sharing that knowledge with students and others. Her life‐long fascination with aquatic life started at the age 8, when she decided to raise fish. With the support of tolerant parents, who had their living room take on the look of a mini‐aquarium store, Helen turned her attention to all things aquatic.

College years focused on science and education, as Domske earned a Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Brockport and a Master’s in Science Education from SUNY Buffalo. Her post‐graduate work involved studies at The Ohio State University and Barry University in Florida.

Helen began her aquatic career at the Aquarium of Niagara, where she served as the Curator of Education for 15 years. There she worked with dolphins, sharks, Humboldt penguins and fish of every size and shape. The years at the Aquarium allowed her to educate over 50,000 students, as well as offered her unique opportunities including helping to raise sea lion pups and penguin chicks that needed to be hand‐reared. There, she began her SCUBA diving interests that have provided life‐long opportunities to study underwater life in the Caribbean, Hawaii, the Great Lakes, the Galapagos Islands and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.


During the years at the Aquarium, Helen focused on teacher training, providing summer Marine

Ecology courses for over 200 educators in Jamaica, Curacao and Roatan, Honduras. These Tropical Marine Education trips engaged teachers in hands‐on learning that they could share with their students and bring ocean life into WNY classrooms.


In 1993, New York Sea Grant and Cornell University appointed Helen as a Coastal Education

Specialist and to fill the newly‐established partnership position as the Associate Director of the Great Lakes Program at the University at Buffalo. As a professor, she has taught courses at Erie Community College, SUNY’s Empire State College and the University at Buffalo. Through her 23 years in the NY Sea Grant‐UB position, she has reached over 25,000 students from elementary through graduate school.


Domske routinely works on the US EPA’s research vessel, the Lake Guardian and has studied all

the Great Lakes, either from research vessels or as a SCUBA diver. Through the years, she has

worked with researchers from the International Association of Great Lakes Research, NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office. She has been invited to present at numerous Great Lakes workshops and conferences around the basin, including the International Joint Commission’s State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference.


Her work in aquatic science has brought her awards and recognition from governmental

agencies and environmental groups, including being named the Paul MacClennan Environmental Citizen of the Year, Conservationist of the Year, NOAA Sea Grant Career Achievement, Buffalo Museum of Natural Sciences’ Educator of the Year, SUNY’s Excellence in Tutoring and Evaluating Award, The Seager Award for Outstanding Contributions to Science Education and numerous Outstanding Program Awards for environmental projects she has developed.