Whale and Dolphin Tracker

Project Name:

Whale and Dolphin Tracker 

Study System:

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae

Odontocetes in the four-island region of Maui, specifically the following species:

  • Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)
  • Spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata)
  • Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris)
  • Rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis)
  • Short-finned pilot whales (Globicepahla macrorhyncus)
  • Melon-headed whales (Peponocephala electra)
  • Pygmy killer whales (Feresa attenuata)
  • False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) – Endangered (insular population)

Motivation and Goals:

There are gaps in our knowledge of the distribution, behavior, and life histories of humpback whales and odontocetes in Maui waters.  By using platforms of opportunity to record large numbers of sightings not possible with a single research vessel, we can begin to understand the year-round distribution of marine mammals in this area. 


Using platforms of opportunity, trained naturalists record vessel GPS tracks using our exclusive web application, “Whale and Dolphin Tracker”.  Along with a GPS location, the application allows the naturalist to record data about each sighting including pod composition and behavior.  

Results To Date:

Between 2013 and 2015, Whale and Dolphin Tracker logged over 8,500 sightings of various species including humpback whales, spotted dolphins, spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and false killer whales. 

Next Steps:

Whale and Dolphin Tracker shows that platforms of opportunity can directly contribute to scientific research in an efficient and inexpensive way.  We intend to implement this web application in other areas of the world, likely starting with other PWF research sites such as East Australia and Ecuador.  

Most Recent Publication: 

2014: Davidson, E.H., Currie, J.J., Stack, S.H., Kaufman, G.D. and Martinez, E. Whale and Dolphin Tracker, a web-application for recording cetacean sighting data in real-time: Example using opportunistic observations reported in 2013 from tour vessels off Maui, Hawai`i. Document SC/65b/WW05 presented to the IWC Scientific Committee, Bled, Slovenia: 12-24 May. Download PDF

Data Visualization and Maps:

See our Whale and Dolphin Sightings Map