One of the founding principles of Pacific Whale Foundation is to contribute to the scientific understanding of marine life and marine ecosystems. Our research program uses a two-pronged approach of long-term and short-term projects.

Short-term studies are based on specific questions and issues in contemporary research. They contribute to the peer-reviewed body of knowledge that is disseminated primarily via scientific journals, reports, and meetings of the scientific community and resource management agencies. Long-term projects generally involve collection of data over many years, producing results at a lower rate but providing the background information for short-term efforts. These types of studies are also necessary to detect and monitor trends, particularly those related to the impact of anthropogenic (human) pressures on our oceans and wildlife.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s research efforts and funded projects are focused primarily in Hawaii, Australia, Ecuador and Chile. Other study sites have included Alaska, Japan and Tonga; and we work in collaboration with researchers in other areas throughout the Pacific. As part of our core advocacy work on behalf of whales, Pacific Whale Foundation is also actively involved in the proceedings of the International Whaling Commission, commonly known as the IWC. Read more here

View our list of Publications & References >




  • Chevron down Jens Currie
    Chief Scientist
  • Jens came to Pacific Whale Foundation in 2013 as a data analyst and was appointed to research manager in 2015. He serves as research chair (alternate) on the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary advisory council and as a first responder on NOAA’s Large Whale Entanglement Response team. His research focuses on investigating potential anthropogenic impacts on cetacean populations. As an analyst, he has a wide and varied background including studying lobster fecundity in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, modelling the impacts of aquaculture pens on the surrounding environment, and evaluating ecosystem goods and services in coastal South Africa.

    As Pacific Whale Foundation’s senior analyst, Jens is responsible for designing research studies and ensuring information is collected in a standardized manner to allow for rigorous statistical analysis. His research focuses on distance sampling, modelling cetacean population dynamics, and cetacean interactions with marine debris.

  • Chevron down Stephanie Stack
    Chief Biologist
  • Stephanie came to Pacific Whale Foundation in 2013 as a marine mammal biologist and was appointed to research manager in 2015. She also serves on NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal and Large Whale Entanglement Response teams. Her research has focused on marine mammal behavior and ecology with a focus on under-studied species. As an international researcher, she has worked with harp and harbor seals in eastern Canada, Antillean manatee and bottlenose dolphins in Belize, and developing communities and marine conservation in South Africa.

    As Pacific Whale Foundation’s senior marine mammal biologist, Stephanie ensures our research evolves to answer the most biologically relevant questions for the study species. Her research focuses on North and South Pacific population of humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, spotted dolphins, and false killer whales, studying aspects of population ecology, behavior, patterns of residency, associations between individuals, and animal health.

  • Chevron down Cristina Castro
    Ecuador Research Director
  • Cristina received a Ph.D. in Biology and a B.A. in Biology and Chemistry at the Central University of Ecuador. Her research interests are conservation of marine mammals and their ocean habitat in Ecuador. Since 1997, her studies have focused on the breeding grounds of humpback whales in the Machalilla National Park in Ecuador. Cristina has also directed marine mammal environmental education programs and written books on environmental education for indigenous children living in the Ecuadorian jungle and coast.

  • Chevron down Jessica McCordic
    Research Biologist
  • Jessica joined the Pacific Whale Foundation in 2015 as a research assistant after completing her graduate studies on bioacoustics in the North Atlantic right whales. Her research focused on the use of bioacoustics to identify seasonality, age, and identity of North Atlantic right whales. She previously worked with Allied Whale to assist with the North Atlantic Humpback Whale and Finback Whale Catalogs.

    As Pacific Whale Foundation’s research assistant, she curates the North Pacific Humpback Whale Catalog and the South Pacific Humpback Whale Catalog.

  • Chevron down Grace Olson
    Research Biologist
  • Grace joined the Pacific Whale Foundation in 2017 as a research assistant after completing her graduate studies on sound patterns of social vocalizations in the Amazon River dolphins in Peru. Her research has focused on odontocete photo-identification, with emphasis on poorly studied species such as the Dusky dolphins in New Zealand, and Amazon River dolphins in Brazil and Peru.

    As Pacific Whale Foundation’s research assistant, she curates the Odontocete Photo-ID Catalogs for numerous species of dolphins, and oversees the Adopt an Animal program.

  • Chevron down Abigail Machernis
    Research Biologist
  • Abigail joined Pacific Whale Foundation in 2018 after completing her Master’s in Coastal Environmental Management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Her research has focused on evaluating the impacts of human interactions on bottlenose dolphins in the Florida panhandle. She was previously a contractor for NOAA’s Southeast Regional Office, where she worked as a large whale biologist assisting with the management and conservation of large whale species in the Gulf of Mexico.

    As Pacific Whale Foundation’s research biologist, she assists with data analysis and preparation of reports and scholarly articles.

Photo Safari
  • Chevron down Valentin Neamtu
    Research Volunteer
  • Val started as a research intern in 2017. He has a B.S. in Marine Vertebrate Biology from Stony Brook University where he focused his studies on fisheries biology. He completed independent research for the Riverhead Foundation investigating prey preference of Grey seals through analysis of fecal and stomach samples, and participated in an annual NOAA scallop survey on the R/V Sharp based out of Woods Hole, MA. He completed an internship at the Sea Watch Foundation in the UK where he learned photo-identification cataloging and further developed his skill set through volunteer work at Pacific Whale Foundation.

  • Chevron down Dave Holmes
    Research Volunteer
  • Dave started as a research volunteer in November 2011 and is primarily involved in quality control of the South Pacific Humpback Whale Catalog. He holds a B.S. from Kansas State University and served in U.S. Army tours in South Korea and Germany. Dave’s many hobbies include hiking, scenic photography, whalewatching, seashell collecting, and reading.


Learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation’s Research Internship Program.