Research Overview

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.




  • Jens Currie Chief Scientist

    Jens Currie is the Principal Investigator for our Hawaii research studies and manages our domestic research program. His research focuses on modelling anthropogenic and environmental impacts on cetacean populations. Jens has a wide and varied background including studying lobster fecundity in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, modelling the impacts of aquaculture pens on the surrounding marine environment, and evaluating ecosystem goods and services in coastal South Africa. Jens advises on anthropogenic impacts to cetaceans to: US Marine Mammal Commission, US National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Jens currently serves as the primary research chair on the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary advisory council, is an invited member of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission, a member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, and a first responder for NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding and Large Whale Entanglement Response teams. 

  • Stephanie Stack Chief Biologist

    Stephanie Stack is the Principal Investigator for our Australia research studies and oversees our international research program. Her research focuses on quantifying the impact of human activities on cetacean health and behavior and working with stakeholders to develop appropriate mitigation strategies. She has studied various aspects of marine mammal biology, ecology and conservation in Canada, Australia, Central America and the USA (Hawaii). Stephanie advises on anthropogenic impacts to cetaceans to: International Whaling Commission, Australian Federal Government, Queensland Department of Parks and Wildlife, and the Canadian Federal Government. Stephanie currently serves as an invited member of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission, a member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, a founding member of the Australian Citizen Science Association, and a trained responder for ORRCA and NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding and Large Whale Entanglement Response teams.  

  • Cristina Castro Ecuador Research Director

    Cristina is the Principal Investigator for our Ecuador research studies. She received a Ph.D. in Biology and a B.A. in Biology and Chemistry at the Central University of Ecuador. Since 1997, her studies have focused on the breeding grounds of humpback whales in 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Florence Sullivan Research Analyst

    Florence joined the Pacific Whale Foundation in 2019 as a research analyst. She has an M.Sc. in Wildlife Science from Oregon State University where her thesis research focused on exploring gray whale foraging ecology and behavior patterns relative to prey availability and vessel disturbance on the Oregon Coast. Previously she has worked with the Environmental Science Center in Seattle, teaching marine conservation to K-12 students, and as an oceanography contractor for NOAA Auke Bay Laboratory on joint Fisheries-Oceanography surveys in the Bering Sea. As Pacific Whale Foundation’s research analyst, she is responsible for managing our long-term data sets and conducting statistical analyses to answer research questions.

  • Kate Sprogis Research Associate

    Dr. Kate Sprogis is an Australian researcher whose expertise lies in the behavioral ecology of whales and dolphins. Kate has over a decade of experience studying the impacts of human activities on cetaceans, such as the behavioral responses of migrating humpback whales to swim-with-whale activities in the Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia. She joined our Australia research team in 2020 to assist with the Swim With Whales Impact Study in Hervey Bay.

  • Desmond Lai Research Assistant

  • Lizzy Beato Research Assistant

  • Mikaela Dibble-Kahn Research Assistant

Hawaii Visitor Update

Aloha, We Are Open!  Our PacWhale Eco-Adventures are open for booking as we welcome visitors back to Maui.  Quarantine restrictions were lifted on Oct. 15th for those following the state’s pre-arrival COVID-19 testing requirements.