News & Resources

Faculty Profiles: Rafe Payne, Marine Mammals

Posted by Paul Wiemerslage | Dec 08, 2014

Rafe Payne would be the first to admit that, in his career in biology, he started small, studying parasites of waterfowl in western Nebraska and fish in the Pacific Ocean. But Rafe moved on in life to bigger things, now studying marine mammals, especially seals, dolphins, and whales, and delighting students with his knowledge, vivacious teaching style and integration of faith and science in Au Sable’s Marine Mammals course, taught each year at Au Sable’s Whidbey Island campus in Washington. Rafe’s college education began in California (where he now resides), receiving a B.A. in Biology from Westmont College. From there Rafe took up graduate studies at the University of Nebraska (a long way from either coast) where he earned an M.S. and Ph.D., first studying parasites of ducks (M.S.), and then gill parasites of marine fishes (Ph.D.). He taught at Biola University in Los Angeles for 38 years teaching, among other things, Marine Mammals, Marine Biology, Ecology, Ornithology, and Parasitology. He also directed and taught Biola's Baja Program for 31 years in Mexico. Complementing his academic work, Rafe has served as shipboard naturalist on the Searcher for 20 years as part of this ship’s long-range whale watching and natural history trips off Baja California, Mexico.


Not only a skilled marine mammologist, but also master teacher, Rafe brings students into a world of close observation of marine mammals informed by scientific understanding, practical experience, and Christian faith. Fascinating as marine mammals are, Rafe himself is an even greater attraction for many students who take Marine Mammals. As one former student noted, “Rafe included his vast personal experience, along with his vast knowledge of the subject area to create an impeccable learning environment.” Another, speaking of the integration of science and faith Rafe achieved, said “Rafe was the most open and approachable person I have ever met on the subject of faith and science. He had reasons and responses to all my inquiries.” Rafe’s effect on students is repeatedly life changing. One faculty member from another institution described the changes in one of her students at both personal and professional levels, sayingFrom being a casual believer she came to give her life to Christ and to trust God and listen for his will in her life… She is amazed at how significant opportunities and support have converged to make possible this “dream job” [at San Francisco’s Marine Mammals Center] that will allow her to be actively engaged in conservation efforts.” In Marine Mammals, students will see Christian faith and science combined in a powerful synthesis in the person of Rafe Payne.